Anatomy of power: Sexual misconduct in South Africa’s polity

Irregular employment practices, furtive, adulterous sex in the workplace, rape, blackmail, secret meetings, power and conspiracy — they’re all there, the ingredients central to any riveting political scandal. But Zwelinzima Vavi’s sexual liaison with a female subordinate is so much more than entertainment for the excitable twitterazzi. Indeed, the sexual misconduct that it illustrates and which Vavi admits to, locates this incident at the heart of behaviour bedevilling our politics generally.

Sexual misconduct takes diverse forms, ranging from sexual patronage and favouritism to sexual harassment and rape. It flourishes within a social context that positions women as mere “semen receptacle” (to borrow former FHM journalist Max Barashenkov’s phrasing) and is buttressed by workplace relations that subordinate employee to employer. When political office is added to the mix, it renders the combination of powers truly toxic. These have been exercised by a number of politicians over the last decade.

The harbinger was the late Norman Mashabane, first found guilty of 21 counts of sexual harassment in 2001. Undeterred by his conviction, he embarked on a fresh spate of harassment in 2003 for which he was again found guilty and recalled from his diplomatic post. And let’s not overlook Mbulelo Goniwe, found guilty in 2007 of sexually harassing a parliamentary intern in October 2006.

Read more at Thought Leader.

Image – Gallo