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TRC board wait on police to deal with Sexual harassment allegations

Business

Nthatuoa Koeshe 

The Transformation Resource Centre (TRC)’s board of directors waits on the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) to take to task its Executive Director Tsikoane Peshoane over allegations of sexual harassment against women working for the rights’ group organisation.

NewsDay learned from an interview with Motṡeoa Senyane, a member of the TRC board that the board has not received any complaint, and is not dealing with any complaint of sexual harassment and it only learned of the allegations from the media reports.

Senyane said allegations faced by Peshoane are very sensitive adding that they are waiting to see how the police will handle these allegations.

She said this following a revelation by six women who late last month told a collaboration of NewsDay and MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism that Peshoane used his power as Executive Director to sexually harass them with impunity for months.

“We are as curious as everyone else because unlike other grievances that were tabled by the staff to the board, this has not reached our board,” she said.

She said because of the case’s nature of sensitivity, they have not tried to be part of it but they are rather waiting on the law to pave a direction on this issue.

She said the six women who reported to the police have not communicated with the board yet adding that she assumes they felt it was a sensitive matter and could not trust the board with handling it.

“This is a clear communication on how they feel about the TRC board,” she said.

She said they want to handle the case with delicacy and all the sensitivity in needs because it is different from other grievances reported in the past.

“This case is very serious because the world is watching attentively on sexual harassment issues and TRC also has a policy that talks about this matter so we feel it’s really a sensitive issue,” she said.

Senyane said TRC is for human rights and they have to ensure that the victims’ rights are protected.

She further told this collaboration that TRC is planning to have a team building and conflict resolutions with the stuff members for TRC to settle the in-conflict in the organization.

Meanwhile, Police Commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, said he did not know much about the case as he is currently out of the country but his deputy is in charge.

Although he has been difficult about responding to questions by this publication, Peshoane is reported to have said to a local weekly that the allegations were serious and had to be presented to the board.

He said there was a pattern he observed stating what surprised him from the allegations was that this was a serious allegation serious enough for it to be presented to the board and have the director suspended immediately.

He said they needed not to write a litany of allegations for them to justify that the director is not a good person saying it came as an afterthought.

The women’s sexual charges against Peshoane came at the height of an internal investigation into alleged corruption, labor rights abuse, abuse of power and abuse of donor funds.

The employees’ petition to the board laid a nuanced account of how Peshoane as the Executive Director went against the ideals and principles of accountability, transparency and human rights protection that the organization espoused.

Some of Peshoane’s sexual harassment accusers who spoke anonymously for fear of reprisals told Journalists Collaboration when she reported Peshoane’s behavior she was told by her immediate supervisors [name withheld] that “a vagina does not have mileage, plus that person [Peshoane] would not be opening you a new hole”.

The women claimed Peshoane would constantly make sexual comments which made them feel uncomfortable or touch them in ways they detested such as brushing his genitalia against their bottoms while holding them from the back.

Another woman said Peshoane locked her in his office, and then started his sexual advances on her.

“After locking the door, he touched me and fondled my breasts and it went as far as taking off his clothes. And I saw his genitalia.

“He put his hands in my panties and touched my vagina and I resisted by tightening my thighs. This he did after calling me to his office.

“At some point in time he had stuck his tongue into my ear and was breathing heavily to my ears in an attempt to seduce me,” said another woman who refused to be named.

The lady further said Peshoane would threaten her whenever she resisted and this ended up with her contract of employment with TRC not being renewed.

Another lady said Peshoane would demand that she seats next to him in meetings and he would start touching her thighs or caressing her inner hand.

Attempts to get hold of Peshoane were fruitless as his mobile phone was unavailable while another was constantly busy.

“He looked at me in a disgusting way all the time. He would also pawn us to his male counterparts during crucial meetings and or parties with stakeholders,” another woman said.

According to the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 a sexual act means “direct or indirect contact with the anus, breasts, penis, buttocks, thighs or vagina of one person and any other part of the body of another person; or exposure or display of the genital organs of one person to another person”.

And the Act interprets coercive circumstances to include but not limited to any circumstances where: “there is an application of force, whether explicit or implicit, direct or indirect, physical or psychological against any person or animal”.

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