By Robert Tapfumaneyi
THE Zimbabwe Gender Commission’s high profile hearing into claims of sexual harassment by three Immigration Department bosses failed to take off Monday after the former top police officers requested to have legal representation.
However, the request did not go down well with the Margaret Mukahanana Sangarwe led Commission which felt the three were unnecessarily buying time, having been advised of the hearing 14 days before.
The under fire officials are Steven Museki (Director Administration), Givemore Charamba (Director Operations) and Clemence Masango, who was Principal Director at the time and is now Registrar General.
They are being accused of sexual harassment by six of their former female juniors within the government department.
The Gender Commission said it also received three complaints from female employees who are still serving within the Immigration Department.
The “delaying tactic” of the hearing did not go down well with the Zimbabwe Gender Commissioners who gave the unnamed accused (who appeared Monday) until Wednesday to put his house in order.
In an interview with NewZimbabwe.com, Zimbabwe Gender Commission legal and investigation committee chair, Victor Nkiwane said it was within the defendants’ constitutional rights to seek legal representation.
“In terms of the process, we gave notice to the Respondents that they should appear before us and we gave them 14 days which is what is required by law,” Nkiwane said.
“So what happened today (Monday), we had the first complainant and the first Respondent and then we indicated to them the process that will take place.
“Then the Respondent said that given what is going to take place, he said ‘I would like to seek legal representation’.”
Nkiwane added, “We were not quite pleased with that as a Commission because we felt that having been given 14 days, he ought to have organised himself in that direction. But nevertheless, given the constitutional right to representation, we said we should give until Wednesday. So our processes will resume this coming Wednesday.”
Meanwhile, three of the complainants who are still working for the Immigration Department withdrew from the process for fear of victimisation.
“When we indicated that complainants were to give evidence in the presence of the Respondents, those that are current employees decided not to appear. They withdrew from the process,” Nkiwane said.
The hearings are set to be conducted in closed doors and out of the media as the Commissioners fear that the victims may be harassed by the public.
The six workers were suspended in 2013 for standing up against the three and at one point, their fired workers representative Nkosana Mthunzi appeared before parliament’s Public Service committee to pour out the group’s frustrations when then Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi (now vice president) failed to address their complaints.