DA ‘sex pest’ faces boot

DA party bosses have recommended that Edmund van Vuuren, their sex harassment-embroiled Eastern Cape chief whip, be dumped from his post and conditionally thrown out the party.

The party’s federal legal commission (FLC) has also called for further investigation into sexual harassment at the party’s Bhisho offices.

The Daily Dispatch can reveal today that on Monday the FLC issued the sanction after evidence led by witnesses in the case of a 25-year-old DA office worker, who filed sexual harassment charges against Van Vuuren, pointed to more unreported cases at the offices.

The Dispatch has seen a copy of the FLC’s findings which also recommended that the party’s federal executive (FedEx) end his membership.

However, this final step should be “suspended up until the end of the member’s term, on condition that the member is not found guilty of a similar offence of harassment and or intimidation”.

The complaint was filed by the DA woman following a telephone conversation on May 8 between the complainant and Van Vuuren.

The complainant claimed that the Port Elizabeth-based MPL made inappropriate comments and questioned her about her sex life with her husband. She said Van Vuuren had commented on her husband’s ability to satisfy her and had made an offer to stand in for her husband “if necessary”.

Van Vuuren faced four charges, but was found guilty of one.

The panel wrote: “The panel finds on a balance of probabilities that the charged member did make comments of an unacceptable nature to the complainant in the telephone call on May 8.

“His subsequent WhatsApp apology and telephone call in which he admits to making unacceptable, hurtful comments and the complainant’s immediate reaction and report of the call, push the balance of probability to the version of the complainant.”

The findings were signed by the commission’s chairperson, Dr A Lotriet, Councillor A Coetsee and MP G Michalakis.

They stated that: “It was clear from the lead evidence that there had been a few incidents of sexual harassment nature at the offices of the DA Eastern Cape legislature previously.

“It seems that none of these complaints received due attention and the matter above was seen as the “last straw” and that the female staff wanted to ensure that this matter was not swept under the carpet as with previous matters.

“We propose that this be investigated further.”

The commission said this case was made more complicated by the fact that the DA had no sexual harassment policy, and consequently the panel had to rely on the Labour Relations Act and Code of Good practice on the handling of sexual harassment incidents.

The panel, therefore, recommended that Van Vuuren “be removed as DA chief whip of the Eastern Cape legislature” and termination of his membership “suspended up until the end of the member’s term, on condition that the member is not found guilty of a similar offence of harassment and or intimidation”.

FedEx chairman James Selfe said yesterday the FLC findings were not final but were recommendations, as the FedEx would have the final say on the matter.

He said: “In terms of our constitution we must receive a report from the FLC containing the findings and the recommended sanctions.”

“FedEx may then adopt the recommended sanctions, or reduce them or increase them.

“However, we are obliged to accept the findings of the FLC.

“This is all premature because we need to schedule a meeting and then decide on the appropriate sanction. That will only happen in the next couple of weeks,” Selfe said.

Van Vuuren was not found guilty of deliberately acting in a way which impacts negatively on the party; not guilty of bringing the party in to disrepute as he did not leak any information regarding the incident to the media, and also not guilty of unreasonably failing to comply with or reject decisions of the official formations of the DA, the panel found.

Attempts to contact Van Vuuren for comment yesterday were unsuccessful as no responses to phone calls or messages were received at the time of writing.