Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has found former Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) director general Aubrey Sumbuleta guilty of sexually harassing female employees, recommending compensation for victims and his prosecution for indecent assault.
Presenting the findings of the rights body’s probe on Monday in Blantyre, MHRC said Sumbuleta should be prosecuted under the Gender Equality Act (GEA) which he allegedly contravened through his actions.
The investigation, compelled by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Women’s Chapter through a petition in July last year, established that at least eight women were allegedly harassed by the former MBC boss during his tenure.
Reading contents of the investigation report at Amaryllis Hotel, MHRC chairperson for gender and women’s rights committee, Stella Twea, said 10 witnesses, including former and current employees of MBC, two former board chairpersons of the public broadcaster and representatives of Women’s Caucus of Parliament were interviewed.
She said only four female employees willingly testified during investigative hearings where they attended together with their lawyers, including Sumbuleta himself, who was also legally represented.
Twea said: “The commission finds that the four female employees were sexually harassed by Mr Sumbuleta at different occasions and places. During all these occasions, the sexual harassment happened in his office. This is a breach of Section 6 of the Gender Equality Act.”
She said some of the female employees opted not to testify as they had not informed their spouses; hence, did not want the matter in the public domain.
The findings allege that Sumbuleta used to either inappropriately touch the victims or force himself onto them and whenever they turned down his advances, they were frustrated through demotions or transfers, among others. These developments, the probe established, compelled some to resign from the institution.
The investigation report cites an incident where Sumbuleta allegedly asked one of the female employees in his office to bend over and pull up her dress so that he could masturbate and ejaculate while seeing her nakedness.
“She refused and he [Sumbuleta] eventually opened the door and let her out,” further reads the report.
Following the scenario, the female employee was moved to MBC Radio.
The report has recommended that the four victims should pursue a civil action for compensation against Sumbuleta, MBC should compensate them as an employer, having been found liable and that two victims that had resigned due to such challenges must be reinstated.
The report has also recommended that police should institute a probe into the indecent assault of a minor under Section 137 (2) of the Penal Code for a sexual relationship between Sumbuleta and one of the victims in 1997.
In the report, MHRC states that they will follow up on the recommendations at the end of July 2021.
The report has further recommended that if police establish criminal liability against Sumbuleta, the Director of Public Prosecutions should institute criminal proceedings, a recommendation that will be followed at the end of September 2021.
Besides, the report has also recommended that MBC should finalise development and adoption of its sexual harassment policy by July 31 2021 and that the board must ensure that management and all staff receive training on sexual harassment in the workplace.
In an interview, MBC board chairperson the Reverend Vasco Kachipapa said the board will act on the recommendations immediately.
In a separate telephone interview, Inspector General of Police George Kainja said his office was yet to be served with a copy of the report.
He said: “But once we receive the report, we will comply with the recommendations.”
Efforts to speak to Sumbuleta proved futile as he could not be reached on his mobile number. However, Twea said during investigative hearings, Sumbuleta denied all the allegations leveLled against him.