Thursday, May 19, 2022

Ministry confirms receiving sexual harassment complaints

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Charles Ntwaagae, has confirmed that he has received “some reports” of sexual harassment at some of Botswana’s missions following an investigative story carried exclusively in The Sunday Standard.
In a statement issued on Friday, Ntwaagae said the ministry had “taken note of the serious allegations of sexual harassment at some of its Missions.”

“The Ministry can now confirm that it has received some reports and assures that these reports are currently being dealt with in accordance with established and applicable Public Service rules and procedures and appropriate action will be taken upon completion of the enquiry.”
When Sunday Standard first broke the story two weeks ago, Ntwaagae told the newspaper that “there are always rumours flying around without any concrete evidence. You know that there will always be rumours and we can not act on rumours. All I can tell you is that no such cases have been officially reported to me.”

He further stated that, “personally, I have not received any official complaint, but I can not say there are no such complaints. You have to understand that such complaints pass through various levels before they reach me. My senior colleagues would first explore the facts before passing on the cases to me. Maybe the cases you are referring to are still being investigated by my deputy or the Director of Ministry Management who, after establishing the facts, would then refer the cases to me for action. But I personally have not officially received any sexual harassment complaint.
“I am not saying there are no such cases, and I can assure you that if they are officially brought to me I would definitely take action.”

In a statement issued this week, the Permanent Secretary said, “the Ministry wishes to point out that there is no attempt to sweep anything under the carpet. To this end, I wish to point out that even though I may appear to have somewhat prevaricated over the issue during the interview, an astute reader would have discerned that I did not actually make a categorical denial of sexual harassment complaints or reports having been lodged with my office.
“Given the fact that these reports, of necessity, remain allegations until and unless they have been proved otherwise, it is only natural and proper that I should, as I did, refrain from making comments which could possibly prejudice the interests of either party, that is, the alleged victims and the alleged culprit.

“I must further point out that I deal with the issue professionally and dispassionately and with a straight face, and also with my integrity and credibility intact. I also have no motive or inclination to dither as far as this matter is concerned.”

It is understood that Members of Parliament are also concerned about the allegations and are planning to ask the minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Lt Gen Mompati Merafhe, to present a formal statement in parliament.


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