Malawi: Sumbuleta's Sexual Harassment Assault Investigations Delays Over Covid-19 Scare - MHRC

24 February 2021

Malawians will have to wait a little longer to know findings of the investigations into alleged sexual harassment of female workers at the public broadcaster, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).

The state-funded human rights watchdog, the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), which is investigating the matter, has said the investigation may take a little long to finish because of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) scare.

The Commission is investigating the alleged perpetrator of the sexual harassment, the former MBC Director General Aubrey Sumbuleta, pursuant to its mandate under the Constitution, Human Rights Commission Act and the Gender Equality Act.

MHRC executive secretary Habiba Osman, in a statement made available to Nyasa Times on Tuesday, said the investigation was largely motivated by petition from the Women's Wing of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to investigate the alleged sexual harassment of female employees at MBC and other parastatal bodies.

Osman disclosed that the petition came after a publication on the Facebook page by Catherine Kunje who narrated how she and other female employees at MBC had suffered sexual harassment at the hands of Sumbuleta.

"The Commission has been investigating this matter since October, 2020 by way of preliminary inquiries and quasi-judicial hearing. At the moment, the Commission is only remaining with few witnesses to hear from. The delay in finalizing hearing from these witnesses has been as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic which has affected even the virtual attendance of some parties to the investigation.

"As a result of this, the Commission has had to postpone two scheduled hearings to allow for full adherence to all prescribed Covid-19 directives from the medical personnel for the affected parties," she said.

However, Osman emphasized that the Commission takes cognizance of the need to expedite the disposal of this matter considering the huge public interest it has generated.

She said at the same time, the Commission is bound to ensure that all due processes are adhered in its handling of this matter.

"To this end, the Commission wishes to inform the general public that it will conclude this matter and inform the general public of its findings as soon as it finalizes hearing the aforementioned witnesses," narrated Osman.

Efforts to speak to Sumbuleta last evening and this morning proved futile as his mobile phone was out of network reach.

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