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South African women’s council pickets against sexual harassment at UNISA

2 April, 2019In a vibrant picket punctuated by struggle songs, dancing and chanting, over a hundred women from the IndustriALL Global Union National Women’s Council of South Africa (INWC-SA) came from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Rustenburg to demand justice for Gugu Ncube.

The picket took place at the main campus of the university in Pretoria on 29 March, and was supported by other civil society groups. INWC-SA consists of IndustriALL affiliates, the Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers Union, the National Union of Mineworkers, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union and the United Association of South Africa.

Gugu, who is a NUMSA member and was at the picket, is challenging her dismissal by the University of South Africa Centre of Early Childhood Education (UCECE) and says she was sexually harassed and unfairly dismissed. When she demonstrated outside the the seat of government and the President's office, the Union Buildings in Pretoria, a few weeks ago, she was roughed up and arrested by the police. She has made reports to the police and the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration. Further, the Commission for Gender Equality, an official body set up by South Africa’s constitution, is also looking into her case.

Officials from UNISA and UCECE received the petition and said they will reopen investigations into the matter and will meet with the INWC-SA on 2 April. The petition, which was read and signed by Ruth Ntlokose, the second deputy president of NUMSA stated:

“Gugu Ncube, like many survivors of sexual assault and/or sexual harassment who have taken the brave step of naming their abuse or abusers have routinely encountered disbelief, trivialization or minimalization of their experience or expectation, doubt and undermining of their accounts. Sexual harassment causes harm and trauma; it forms part of the continuum of violence against women that includes sexual assault, exploitation and abuse.”

Says Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa:

“We stand for Gugu’s fight for justice in line with the IndustriALL Pledge which is our commitment to stand firm and say no to sexual harassment at the workplace. We are committed to uprooting all forms of gender-based violence from the workplace.”

In 2018 the South African government convened a national summit against gender-based violence and femicide and recently opened a sexual offences court to curb violence against women.