The ANC National Disciplinary Committee (NDC) held a disciplinary hearing at Chief Albert Luthuli House in Johannesburg today (14 December 2006) into charges brought against Cde Mbulelo Goniwe.
This follows a preliminary hearing on 16 November 2006 in Cape Town, after the matter was referred to the NDC by the ANC National Working Committee.
Members of the NDC present at the hearing were Cdes Kader Asmal, in the chair, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Susan Shabangu and Luwellyn Landers.
Three charges were brought against Cde Goniwe arising from a formal complaint laid by an administrative assistant in the ANC`s parliamentary office, Ms Nomawele Njongo.
Cde Goniwe was charged with:
1. abuse of office in the ANC and the ANC Caucus in the National Assembly to obtain sexual and other undue advantage from members or others, contrary to Rule 25.5(e) of the ANC Constitution;
2. behaviour which brings the ANC into disrepute and which manifests a flagrant violation of the moral integrity expected of members and public representatives and of conduct unbecoming that of a member or public representative, contrary to Rule 25.5(c) of the ANC Constitution;
3. behaving in such a way as to provoke serious divisions and a break-down of unity in the organisation, contrary to Rule 25.5(i) of the ANC Constitution.
The committee had to take into account the obligations imposed on members the African National Congress in trying this charge against Cde Goniwe.
The committee refers to Rule 25.1(a) of the ANC Constitution: all members without exception must abide by the Constitution of the ANC and the Rules and Regulations, the Standing Orders and Codes of Conduct as adopted or amended from time to time, as well as all policies and decisions properly adopted or made in terms of the Constitution.
Under Rule 25.1(b) public representatives must submit to and abide by any disciplinary proceedings directly or indirectly arising from his conduct as a public representative of the ANC.
Disciplinary proceedings against a public representative are specifically identified in the Constitution of the ANC. Normally, disciplinary proceedings are instituted against a person simply as a member. `Conduct` of a public representative is also specifically highlighted.
This particular reference to a public representative entails in the Committee`s view a heavier responsibility imposed on a member. In this case, a representative is the public face of the ANC. The more senior the post the greater the authority exercised by that person and the greater the responsibility. Such authority must be exercised with prudence and fairness and with a recognition that a junior staff member of the institution serving a public representative is, by definition, vulnerable.
Cde Goniwe`s status as a Chief Whip gave him enormous power and authority. He effectively ran the parliamentary office, interacted with political parties in the National Assembly, disciplined members of the National Assembly and played a leading role in the Caucus and the Political Committee of Parliament.
Parliament enjoys a special status in our national Constitution. The public is therefore entitled to expect behaviour from its members which is above reproach. Parliamentary staff must treat members with courtesy and respect. Members must therefore show the same consideration. Complaints from staff of bullying or harassment, including any allegation of sexual harassment, or any other inappropriate behaviour on the part of members must be taken seriously and investigated.
The National Disciplinary Committee of the ANC believes that there is an urgent need for Parliament to establish a formal, transparent, speedy and independent machinery for the investigation of any such complaints. The investigation of such misbehaviour on the part of members must not be left solely to the internal workings of political parties.
As far as members of the ANC are concerned, attention must also be drawn to the decision of the National Executive Committee to adopt a Code of Conduct for elected members of the African National Congress. Such a Code of Conduct was first adopted in November 1994, whose provisions were reiterated in 1995.
Significantly, the reference to abuse of office in the Code of Conduct is identified in the section dealing with `commitment to democracy and equality`. The Code of Conduct prescribes the following for elected representatives:
`No elected member shall use his or her position to court or demand or be seen to be courting or demanding any form or favour, especially sexual favour. Women, in particular, shall in all particulars be treated as equals; any form of sexual harassment will constitute a serious offence`
The NDC will draw the attention of the National Executive Committee that it must now implement the provision in the Code of Conduct whereby all prospective candidates for National and Provincial elections must subscribe to the Code of Conduct before they are elected. Regrettably this obligation is observed by the movement in its breach. However, the absence of a signature does not affect the obligations undertaken by public representatives of the ANC.
Count one is really associated with sexual harassment.
`Harassment` can take various forms. For the purpose of this hearing, the Committee adopts the following approach: `Harassment` may entail direct or implied threats that submission to sexual advances, will be a condition of, or that failure to such advances will adversely affect employment, work status, promotion, or, second, direct propositions of a sexual nature or third, any form of unwelcome attention of a sexual nature.
The essential element of such unwelcome advances is the violation of one of the Founding Provisions of our national Constitution, the right to dignity as such demands may place a vulnerable young woman in peril and at a disadvantage as a refusal to accede to overtures may have unforeseen consequences. No one, especially a woman, has to accept a blandishment to `know your place`. Dignity requires a recognition of real choice, not a forced response. A woman`s place, therefore is everywhere.
Freedom to choose is therefore a part of the basic value system of the ANC. A breach of this value is reflected in Rule 25.5(e) which refers to:
`Engaging in sexual or physical abuse of women and children or abuse of office to obtain sexual, or any undue advantage from members or others`.
and which constitutes `misconduct` for which disciplinary proceedings may be instituted. This provision is the kernel of the proceedings concerning Comrade Goniwe and is the basis of the first charge.
The NDC found Cde Goniwe not guilty on count three, due to lack of evidence.
The nature of such cases fundamentally pits one person against another. In such cases, the NDC has to evaluate the overall evidence, to look at the surrounding circumstances, and the trustworthiness or otherwise of the witnesses.
On the major charge of abuse office to obtain sexual favours under Rule 25.5(e) of the Constitution, the NDC accepted as credible the evidence from Ms Njongo.
The NDC found that the evidence of Cde Goniwe and two other employees of the ANC parliamentary office was contradictory, inconsistent and therefore unreliable.
Following the examination of the facts the committee established that there was a period of at least 45 minutes on the morning of 26 October 2006 during which the complainant and Cde Goniwe were by themselves in Goniwe`s house in Acacia Park.
The Committee accepts that during this period Cde Goniwe made overtures of a sexual nature to the complainant. It was the view of the committee that these overtures were of a specific nature, and that Cde Goniwe was guilty of abuse of office as Chief Whip in behaving in this dishonorable way.
Such conduct is unbecoming of that of a member of the ANC, in the light of its history of opposition to any form of abuse of women and its historic campaign for equality.
The committee found Cde Goniwe guilty on counts one and two.
The committee, in its ruling, drew attention to the fact that it was a painful decision to arrive at, since Cde Goniwe has played an important role within the movement both in the Eastern Cape and nationally. Buts commitment to protecting the integrity of the movement in its relationship to women must be defended.
The decision of the NDC was therefore as follows:
1. Cde Goniwe should beexpelled from membership of the African National Congress, with immediate effect. The consequence of this is:
1. removal from the ANC list as a member of Parliament;
2. removal from the position of Chief Whip of the Majority Party in the National Assembly;
3. that he is forbidden to stand for public office or be a public representative of the ANC for a period of three years.
2. Goniwe can apply for membership of the ANC after a period of three years, providing that he is on good behaviour during this time.
The decision of the NDC in this case is binding and final.
ANC National Disciplinary Committee
Kader Asmal (Chairperson)