20 December 2018
The Equal Education National Council closes the Andrews Enquiry established in response to allegations of sexual harassment against former General Secretary, Tshepo Motsepe
The National Council has resolved not to publish the Andrews Enquiry report in full in the interests of privacy and confidentiality of those affected by the enquiry. A summary is available on our website.
In May and July this year the National Council (NC) of Equal Education (EE) established two separate and independent enquiries to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against two former senior leaders of the organisation. Each enquiry was led by respected professionals and had distinct terms of reference.
These events have forced us to reflect deeply on how power, patriarchy and consent operate within our movement. We are confronting these difficult truths, and we are committed to understanding and changing the organisational practices that have led to silencing womxn and marginalised people in our organisation.
We recognise that power dynamics in society are skewed against womxn, among others,
and that these dynamics, at times, play out in enquiries such as these, making them imperfect tools.
On 24 April 2018, members of EE’s Senior Management Team submitted a written complaint to the NC following a preliminary investigation that revealed allegations of sexual harassment against former General Secretary, Tshepo Motsepe. The allegations concerned two junior staff members and therefore arose in the workplace, while Motsepe was carrying out his duties as the head of the organisation.
On the same day it received the complaint, the NC resolved to establish an independent enquiry because of Motsepe’s seniority in the organisation, the closeness with which he worked with individuals and structures across the movement and more importantly, the seriousness of the allegations. Under these circumstances, it was necessary for the NC to establish an independent process that would investigate what had happened and to make findings and recommendations on the appropriate response.
We recognised the importance of establishing an independent process that would seek justice for the complainants who had bravely come forward; protect their privacy; and ensure a fair process for Motsepe, which he had called for following his resignation.
On 14 May 2018, the NC formally established the independent enquiry, however by then, Motsepe had resigned from the organisation citing a breakdown of trust within the workplace. Nevertheless, he agreed to participate in the enquiry, despite the fact that this was no longer a formal disciplinary process where a formal labour law ruling could be made.
The Panel appointed to undertake the enquiry was comprised of Mercia Andrews; Co-Director of the Trust for Community Outreach and Education, who chaired the enquiry; Clare Ballard, an attorney at Lawyers for Human Rights; and Madoda Cuphe, Director of Programmes at the Alternative Information Development Centre.
The core terms of reference for the independent enquiry tasked the Panel with making findings, reporting on and making recommendations concerning the following:
Allegations of harassment, including sexual harassment on the part of EE’s former General Secretary Tshepo Motsepe;
The precise facts and circumstances which gave rise to the allegations against Mr Motsepe;
Any new evidence or allegations pertaining to Mr Motsepe which may come to light in the course of the inquiry;
Whether the allegations of harassment against Mr Motsepe are credible;
Whether Tshepo Motsepe has breached the trust of Equal Education, its members and staff and whether his actions might be in breach of EE’s Constitution, including but not limited to clauses 8.7.3., 8.7.4., or 8.7.5, policies and procedures, and / or Code of Conduct.
We thank those who came forward to participate in and support this enquiry, particularly the two complainants, who shared their experiences and our staff members who provided information to the Panel. We are grateful to the Panel, individually and collectively, for meaningfully grappling with complex and sensitive issues and for approaching the process with discretion, care and sensitivity. The Panel acknowledged that a number of delays took place with regard to the finalisation of the report. It recognised the additional strain this may have placed on the complainants and the accused. With hindsight we acknowledge that the channels of communication between the members of the Senior Management Team, the complainants and the Panel could have been better facilitated and caused less delays in the process. In future, we will do better to ensure that these processes are conducted carefully, and without delay.
Complainants were provided with various options for sharing their testimonies with the Panel, which we consider indicative of the Panel’s commitment to undertaking a survivor centered approach.
The complainants also had the option of anonymity from Motsepe.
The Panel decided that fairness required that allegations of sexual harassment be put to Motsepe for purposes of making findings in relation to his conduct. Therefore, the Panel explained that in the event that the complainants chose to remain anonymous, they would be unable to use that evidence to make findings against Motsepe because he would not be in a position to give a full response to the allegations against him. Nevertheless, the Panel encouraged the complainants to share their testimonies for it to make recommendations to EE that could be used in the broader organisational review process.
The first complainant chose to remain anonymous. The Panel was therefore unable to consider the allegations and did not make any findings in relation to her specific testimony. We appreciate the Panel’s respect for the first complainant’s decision and the recognition that these decisions are not easy. In our own lessons on these processes, we are grappling with what a fair procedure means for complainants who want to remain anonymous or who do not want their experiences to be put to the accused. In these circumstances formal enquiries are limited in their ability to make findings and to hold those accused of wrongdoing accountable for their behaviour.
The second complainant was willing to disclose her identity to Motsepe. The Panel evaluated the second complainant’s account and Motsepe’s response through exchanging written statements and oral testimony. It decided that cross examination was not required.
The Panel found that the events outlined by the second complainant had taken place. As a leader of the organisation, Motsepe should have known that his behaviour was inappropriate. Nevertheless, the Panel did “not find that his behaviour, albeit inappropriate, was sufficiently persistent in these circumstances to fall within the definition of sexual harassment.”
The distinction drawn by the Panel between inappropriate conduct and sexual harassment is not fully explained in the Report. This may be distressing and even counter-intuitive to understand and we will consult with the panelists as they have offered, to seek clarity.
The Panel made observations about Motsepe’s leadership style which staff experienced as sexist, harsh and intimidating. We accept that the way the leaders and senior staff members of our movement behave on a daily basis, in their ordinary interactions with staff and with each other, has a direct impact on the organisational culture and the experiences of staff. We commit to reviewing the current structures and policies of EE and to holding all of our leaders, across the movement, men and women, accountable for their conduct.
The Panel also makes findings in respect of some of the missteps that were made in responding to serious allegations against our then General Secretary by the SMT. This was an unprecedented situation where the top leadership was challenged by such allegations and we acknowledge that this resulted in some confusion and quick decision making by the SMT as to how best to act . We need to ensure that our organisational systems, oversight and procedures are strengthened to respond better in future. We also need to ensure that our SMT is better equipped to handle such situations. This will be incorporated as a matter of priority as part of our organisational review.
A lot of this work has already begun with amendments to EE’s Constitution at our Congress in July 2018, which limits the number of staff members eligible to serve on the NC and, even more importantly, bars the Chairperson from employment at EE. This ensures that the staff and political leadership dynamics that contributed to the SMT’s first responses to the allegations will not happen again. Moreover, it also places direct accountability on the General Secretary.
In the end, our aim is to create an environment that supports women. As a movement committed to social justice, we are determined to identify and address any factors which may enable the abuse of power, particularly sexual harassment. We are determined to work hard to remedy this – to build a safe, welcoming movement and place to work. We are also mindful of the Panel’s wish for further engagement with the NC, which we welcome.
The way forward
This has undoubtedly been a year of hard lessons for EE. These process have affected EE staff and members as well as members of the public. We salute our comrades at EE for their principled positions for their unrelenting spirit to question and challenge power and patriarchy, for their patience in sharing their experiences and championing a new and radical politics that recognises that our struggles, in and outside the movement, are intersectional.
Our campaigns will never again be seen as singular or exclusively outward looking.
Because of the intense education that is taking place inside our movement, our conduct, our interactions and voices will deliberately guard all of our staff and members against abuse, bullying, sexism and silencing.
We welcome and humbly appreciate the support we have received from the sector during this time. We look forward to convening shared spaces where we can meaningfully engage on ways to better respond to issues of harassment, accountability, power and consent that exist in all of our movements and organisations. We look forward to engaging on how we challenge abuses of power in all forms and build accountability mechanisms that can thoroughly centre complainants and survivors.
Issued by the National Council of Equal Education