De Lille twiddling her thumbs over sexual harassment claims at SOE

The DA is in possession of two reports addressed to Minister Patricia De Lille and her Deputy Noxolo Kiviet which detail severe governance challenges within the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP). These challenges have been on-going for at least 18 months, and have severely hampered the work of the Council.

The reports expose the apparent abuse of power by SACAP’s President in the treatment of black female Councillors. The bullying and harassment being experienced by them is said to be perpetrated by the “President, Registrar and a certain faction within the Council”. According to the reports, this has resulted in the affected Councillors being “targeted, sabotaged, undermined, bullied and harassed incessantly”.

The governance challenges at SACAP are also said to be so extreme that they have also affected the ability of Councillors in the performance of fiduciary duties.

Neither Minister de Lille and nor Deputy Minister Kiviet responded to the reports sent to them on 4 December 2020, other than to say “it would be investigated”. No timeframes were given, nor were appropriate plans put in place to protect the Councillors alleging the harassment.

In early March, the DA submitted parliamentary questions to the Minister regarding the progress on these reports. In response to my questions – three months after the initial reports were sent to her – Minister de Lille says she has now only “directed that an independent investigation of the allegations of harassment of the female councillors by their male counterparts be carried out”.

Asked how she was going to address the severe, on-going governance challenges, the Minister replied that “she had been informed of the about the governance challenges” and “is in consultation with the Council”. No further information was forthcoming.

This is not good enough. The Minister has had three months to action this investigation. Instead, she chose to twiddle her thumbs on the matter while female Councillors were still expected to work under these horrid conditions.

The matter has been escalated to the Commission for Gender Equality and the South African Institute for Architects. However, as the policy leader for the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, we call on Minister de Lille to take responsibility for her Department, to act for the SACAP to get the appropriate policy on transformation – with a specific focus on bullying and sexual harassment – on her desk within three months.

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