My Experience of Sexual Harassment at Numsa

When Cedric Gina, the President of Numsa spoke about how female comrades were being harassed for their room numbers by our male comrades, it bought back memories of an incident I experienced recently.

I decided to share my story to highlight to comrades that the problem of sexual harassment is very real within our union and more importantly that it is not a laughing matter.

A few weeks ago I was a delegate at one of the RPWs which were held in preparation for the NBC. As I was preparing to leave the workshop I was approached by a comrade who is a shopsteward at one of our large companies. This comrade complimented me on the way I looked and how I carried myself, to which I politely replied – thank you’.

The comrade then asked for my numbers and indicated that he was interested in pursuing a relationship with me. I replied that I was married and not interested and he replied that my marriage status was not a problem!

The comrade insisted on sharing his name and contact details with me. He introduced himself by saying, I am so and so, I am smart, sexy and lovable.
The comrade then said to me: “I know that ‘ke se kobo’ (I am ugly) but you know what they say about ugly men. Ugly men have big penises, and I will not disappoint you with how my penis operates.”

I was in such a huge shock that I could not even answer him, but I just mumbled goodbye and walked away.

Later on when I was by myself I really wished that I had been composed enough to tell him to his face what a disgusting man he was and how offended I was by his disrespect!

I am hoping that my story will expose to comrades what we as female comrades have to deal with when we attend union meetings and it will also encourage other female comrades to come forward and share their stories.

These stories cannot remain as our secret any longer.
Anonymous Shocked Member

Numsa KwaZulu-Natal launches gender-based violence campaign
By Mirriam Mochochoko

On May 11 this year Numsa’s KwaZulu-Natal gender structure, youth forum and culture structure launched their gender-based violence campaign as part of its 2013 programme. The campaign came about came as a result of the escalating abuse and rape of elderly women and children in South Africa, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal. All members of local gender structures, the youth forum and invited guests attended in numbers, despite the rainy weather.

Among the guests were Cosatu’s provincial gender office-bearer Sibongile Nhlapo; members of Cosatu affiliates, the South African Communist Party, and correctional services; the provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Betty Mmamonnye Ngobeni representatives of the Victim Support Centre and a parolee. The day started with a prayer and singing of National Anthem and ended with a candle-light vigil.

The guests spoke well. In most cases, people focus on the victims of rape, abuse or assault and how to provide counselling and comfort, but we shifted our focus to the offender. We wanted to know what really pushes offenders to continue committing crimes against women after completing a jail sentence or being given parole.

Welcoming those present, Numsa’s deputy chairperson, Reuben Nkontwana, highlighted the issue of society’s expectation of girl and boy children. He referred to the toys that parents buy for children, and emphasised the importance of sharing household chores.

The police commissioner’s approach to the topic was more educational: that issue of crime cannot be left to police alone but should also involve the community at large.

She reminded us that the environment children are raised in contributes to their behaviour when growing up, for instance, their father beating up their mother in front of them. She encouraged people in different formations of society to participate and make sure our voice is heard.

Skhumbuzo Mthembu, the parolee, started by describing how he was arrested for car hijacking and served ten years in jail. He spoke about the behaviour of youth and the role that society is – or is not – playing. He warned young people that taking young girls to a tavern and calling them amatshwele and giving them drugs is a criminal offence.
Not reporting such a crime when you are aware of it but fear for your safety is also criminal.

He concluded by saying when a person commits a crime the police make an arrest, the justice system sentences; and correctional services rehabilitates.

But what is the role of the society?
The contributions made by our guest speakers were very encouraging, warning us about the rape and abuse of women and children. The launch ended with a candle-light vigil to commemorate those who have suffered or died due to gender-based violence.

Moving forward from the launch, we expect all of us to know that we have to participate in community formations, to make our voices heard and report all forms of crimes irrespective of a position the offender occupies in the community. Speak out!