Rights group Sonke Gender Justice on Monday called for an urgent independent review into Gugu Ncube’s allegations of sexual harassment at the University of South Africa (Unisa).
Ncube was last Wednesday arrested outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria – where President Cyril Ramaphosa has his offices – where she had staged a semi-nude protest.
Wearing black knickers and a red top, Ncube held up a placard addressed to Ramaphosa which read in part: “I was raped, sexually harassed … I spoke out, they lied that I had resigned.”
Sonke Gender Justice said Ncube chose this radical form of protest in an attempt to seek justice for her alleged sexual harassment by a senior Unisa official. Ncube said she was dismissed from her position at the Unisa Centre for Early Childhood Education after she reported the incident and had expressed concerns about the process in which her claim was addressed.
Unisa insists due process was followed and that “it was established that there was no basis to charge the staff members concerned with the alleged offences”.
Sonke said in line with a declaration issued by the presidency at a gender-based violence (GBV) summit last November, “it is paramount to have clear and accountable mechanisms for dealing with allegations of sexual harassment”.
“This includes transparent sexual harassment policies and a code of conduct that are accessible to the public to ensure efficacy. This applies to all spheres including government, private and public companies, civil society and learning institutions such as Unisa,” it said.
The rights group’s legal and litigation manager, Kayan Leung, added: “Sonke supports any form of peaceful protest and condemns what we consider the excessive use of force by the police when Ncube was arrested.”
Leung noted that protests of this kind were not new to South Africa, recalling how Phindile Nkumah last November removed her clothes before Ramaphosa to expose the physical scars of her sexual abuse. In 2016, female students at Rhodes University similarly staged a protest to highlight the rape culture pervading the institution. Last year, a Rhodes student committed suicide after being allegedly raped.
“By not taking each and every allegation of sexual violence seriously, we send a message that survivors are not to be believed and perpetuate a feeling of powerlessness and despair – fueling underreporting of GBV,” Leung said.
Sonke called out what it called the unequal societal response to nudity and what was considered “indecent” behaviour between men and women. It said no arrests had been made when similar levels of nudity were displayed during a recent cycling event aimed at raising awareness on environmental pollution.
Zimbabwean politician Welshman Ncube of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, has reportedly denied suggestions that the 38-year-old Gugu Ncube was his daughter.
– African News Agency