The future of DA Eastern Cape chief whip in the Bhisho legislature, Edmund van Vuuren hangs in the balance after he was found guilty of sexual harassment.
The party’s provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga confirmed the outcome of an internal disciplinary process.
He said that of the three charges that had been levelled against Van Vuuren, he was found guilty on one by the panel of the Federal Legal Commission (FLC).
The Daily Dispatch can reveal today that the outcome of the disciplinary hearing had been communicated to Van Vuuren and the complainant at a meeting in East London on Tuesday.
First to meet the FLC was the victim, followed by Van Vuuren – in separate marathon meetings that began at 10am and ended at 8pm.
The two were given an opportunity to present their arguments before a final decision on a sanction is delivered. No date has been given for this yet.
This comes four months after the Dispatch published a dossier in which the 25-year-old complainant accused Van Vuuren of sexually harassing her. Other staff members also complained about him.
Contacted for comment following the Tuesday meeting, Van Vuuren said his only mistake was to make a two-minute call to the complainant.
“I never laid a hand on her. It’s her word against mine. I have told the DC the inappropriate comments that I made was calling her ‘sweetheart’ and ‘darling’ which is how I speak. I was angry with the world that my wife had died,” said van Vuuren.
Asked if he had made any sexually suggestive remarks during the phone-call, he said: “That is what she says and I totally deny that”.
DA MPL Vicky Knoetze, who leads the party’s disciplinary committee, said the case was close to conclusion.
She said the decisions still had to be tabled before the federal executive council after which they became official and a statement would be issued.
The Dispatch was at the meeting venue when the visibly emotional complainant arrived on Tuesday, in the company of her mother.
Bhanga also stressed that the process was not yet complete.
“Even though Mr Van Vuuren has been found guilty this is by no means the end of the process. Van Vuuren still has to be sanctioned,” said Bhanga.
“Even after this he will have the opportunity for an internal appeal, both against the verdict and the recommended sanction.”
Van Vuuren said he would use all avenues available to have the finding overturned.
“The processes is far from finished. One court can find you guilty and another can find against that. I am very positive…I haven’t been given sanctions yet,” added Van Vuuren.
Reacting to the verdict, the DA Women’s Network’s Eastern Cape leader Celeste Barker said they embraced the thorough processes of our party’s policies and will issue no further comment on any disciplinary matter until all required processes have been concluded.