Did Ramaphosa know about sexual harassment allegations against Senzo Mchunu when he appointed Mchunu to Cabinet?
16 February 2021
News reports yesterday revealed that one of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s closest political allies, Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu, is embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal dating back to 2018. A female employee at Luthuli House, the ANC’s headquarters, reportedly accused Mchunu of making unwanted sexual advances, including kissing her on the lips and touching her inappropriately, and then firing her after she laid a complaint about his advances.
Mchunu’s alleged conduct is disgusting, particularly in light of the crisis of gender-based violence that terrorises South African women. However, according to the reports, the ANC subsequently actively aggravated the suffering of the victim by engineering a coverup designed to protect Mchunu rather than his accuser. Before the allegations emerged in public, she reportedly pleaded in writing with the ANC that her complaints had fallen on deaf ears.
While the ANC’s contempt for the victims of sexual abuse and violence does not come as a surprise in the wake of scandals like the ones involving Mduduzi Manana and the allegations levelled against Pule Mabe and David Masondo, South Africans should be outraged at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s apparent failure to investigate the extremely serious allegations against a senior member of his Cabinet and inner circle. The fact that the original complaint was laid over two years ago begs the question of what Ramaphosa knew about the conduct of his close political associate.
The DA will submit a series of parliamentary questions to Ramaphosa to establish whether he was aware of the allegations against Mchunu when he appointed him to Cabinet in May 2019. If he was indeed aware of the abuse claims but failed to take action, Ramaphosa would be complicit in protecting an alleged perpetrator of sexual harassment. Now that the allegations have become public, the DA also demands to know whether the President intends to urgently investigate the complaints and, if confirmed, fire Mchunu.
There can be absolutely no room for political favouritism when it comes to allegations of sexual harassment. Ramaphosa has repeatedly promised harsh action against the perpetrators of such crimes. His response to the allegations against Mchunu will show whether he meant it.
Issued by Leon Schreiber,DA Shadow Minister for Public Service and Administration, 16 February 2021