Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) director general Aubrey Sumbuleta has been sent on forced leave to pave the way for investigations into sexual harassment allegations lodged against him.
In an interview last evening, Minister of Information Gospel Kazako confirmed the decision, saying: “He has been sent on forced leave to allow free and fair investigations on complaints lodged by some lady and MBC members of staff [on the allegations of sexual harassment].”
The minister said the duration of Sumbuleta’s leave will be determined by the pace of the investigations.
The decision comes after Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) petitioned Ombudsman Martha Chizuma in July this year to investigate sexual harassment allegations at MBC and other parastatals, government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
Efforts to speak to Sumbuleta last evening proved futile as his mobile phone was out of network reach.
MBC board chairperson the Reverend Vasco Kachipapa said he could not comment on the matter because he was yet to start reporting for duties.
“We just received the letters of appointment and we are waiting for some processes to be followed. So, I cannot comment on that as of now,” he said.
In a separate interview, HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence said the human rights watchdog was looking forward to the conclusion of the investigations.
He said: “HRDC would also like to see the same action taken by government on some public officers who are answering criminal charges.
“We do not want to see selection application of policy by sending others on forced leave while leaving other public officers answering different charges in court. Public officers answering charges in court should also be sent on forced leave.”
The HRDC Women’s Chapter petition also asked the Ombudsman to investigate similar cases in institutions of higher learning.
Reads the petition in part: “Most of these women have been unable to lodge complaints while some that have been able to lodge complaints have not been assisted in an effective manner.
“As such, this practice has remained unchecked and women have continued suffering.”
The petition also expressed concerns that despite the Gender Equality Act having provisions and penalties on people committing cases of sexual harassment, there has been lack of enforcement.