28 November 2018
Statement: Update on Independent Satchwell Inquiry
On 18 May 2018, the Mail & Guardian published serious allegations of sexual harassment and other misconduct against former leaders of Equal Education (EE), including Doron Isaacs, Zackie Achmat and members of the 2011 Human Resources Sub-Committee that looked into claims that Isaacs had violated EE’s sexual harassment code.
On 22 May, EE’s National Council (NC) resolved to establish an independent inquiry, with Terms of Reference that were produced on 14 June. The NC established this inquiry in accordance with its powers under the EE Constitution as the body responsible for the overall governance and leadership of the organisation and in accordance with its duty to ensure that EE, its members, leaders and staff live up to the values and expectations of the movement and feel safe, acknowledged and supported.
The independent panel – Judge Kathleen Satchwell as Chairperson, Professor Malose Langa, and Professor Rashida Manjoo – were tasked to investigate the very serious allegations against former leaders of EE.
On 27 November, EE accepted receipt of a report by Judge Satchwell and Professor Langa, who are the majority members of the three-person panel. The report has been given to interested parties, and we are aware that it has already been widely circulated. The majority findings of the panelists are as follows:
- In respect of the “investigation of allegations regarding an incident in 2009 which appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper of 18th May 2018”, the majority of the panelists found that “[n]o evidence has been produced to support the existence of any of the allegations regarding an incident in 2009 involving Mr Doron Isaacs which allegation was reported in the Mail & Guardian newspaper of 18th May 2018 and all evidence available to this Panel exonerates Mr Doron Isaacs of any wrongdoing with regard to such allegations”.
- In respect of the “Investigation of any other specific complaints of sexual harassment or related misconduct, including in respect of otherwise consensual relationships within this period”, the majority of the panelists found that “[n]o complaints or evidence have been produced to support the existence of any complaints of sexual harassment or related misconduct on the part of Mr Doron Isaacs. In the absence of any such complaint or evidence against him, there is nothing before this Panel of which Mr Isaacs needs to be exonerated”.
- In respect of the “Investigation whether Isaacs or any other member, employee or office bearer, including Zackie Achmat, silenced or intimidated any potential complainants against Isaacs”, the majority of the panelists found that:
- “[n]o evidence has been produced to support the existence of any allegation against Mr Achmat that he has silenced or intimidated or attempted to silence or intimidate any potential complainant against Isaacs as was reported in the Mail & Guardian newspaper of 18th May 2018 and all evidence available to this Panel exonerates Mr Achmat of any wrongdoing with regard to such allegations.
- No evidence has been produced to support the existence of any allegations against Mr Isaacs that he has silenced or intimidated or attempted to silence any potential complainant against himself as was reported in the Mail & Guardian newspaper of 18th May 2018 and all evidence available to this Panel exonerates Mr Isaacs of any wrongdoing with regard to such allegations.
- There are no other complaints of attempted or completed acts of intimidation or silencing on the part of either Mr Isaacs or Mr Achmat in regard to any potential complainant against Mr Isaacs. Absent any such complaints, there is nothing before this Panel of which Mr Isaacs or Mr Achmat needs to be exonerated”.
- In respect of the “Review of the process and findings of the 2011 investigation into Isaacs’ conduct by the then Board and the Human Resources Subcommittee. Evaluation of the process which the Human Resources Subcommittee followed and the merits of its findings. Consideration whether or not any of the members of the Human Resources Subcommittee was subject to a conflict of interests”, the majority of the panelists found that:
- “[t]he process followed by the Human Resources Subcommittee, the Chair of the Board and the Board itself in the 2011 investigation was fair and appropriate in all the circumstances and met the requirements of natural justice and proper procedure.
- The findings of the Human Resources Subcommittee as endorsed by the then Board was considered, rational and correctly reflected the absence of evidence before them.
- No member of the Human Resources Subcommittee or the Board allowed any personal knowledge of or connection to or with Mr Isaacs or any other person to compete against or overwhelm their duty to conduct an independent and impartial investigation in his or her capacity as a member of the Human Resources Subcommittee or the Board and thus no person can be found to have subordinated their duty to Equal Education to their personal interests. No conflict of interests was entertained or indulged”.
- In respect of any “recommendations of action to be taken by Equal Education in respect of its policies, governance systems and practices in relation to any person or matter contained within or relevant to these Terms of Reference”, the majority of the panelists found that “[f]or the reasons set out in detail in [their] Report, this Panel makes no specific recommendations to Equal Education as an organization on the manner in which it should attempt to ensure a culture in which the dignity of all employees and persons associated with Equal Education receive proper acknowledgment and respect”.
Importantly, the panelists did not all agree, and we’ve been informed that Professor Manjoo will produce her own report on 10 December 2018. That too will be distributed to interested parties once her report has been produced.
We would have preferred for the two reports to have been released at the same time so that we could consider and deliberate on the contents of the two reports together. However, we accept that the Panel has the power and the right to decide how and when its reports are produced and released.
We commit to responding substantively on both reports once we have received Professor Manjoo’s report, and ask for patience while we wait for her report.
We acknowledge the Panel as a collective and individually for doing this work diligently, discreetly and with the requisite integrity.
In addition, this inquiry could not have been undertaken without those who supported and participated in its work, including the complainants who came forward and shared their testimonies, the Women’s Legal Centre who gave legal support to all the complainants, Cheadle Thompson and Haysom Inc who provided legal and secretariat support to the panel, and all the respondents and their legal representatives.
Issued by: Equal Education Secretariat