Lotus FM programme manager lifts lid on sexual harassment claims



Shocking and widespread details of sexual harassment have been revealed at SABC.

Durban – A former Lotus FM manager said senior officials from the Department of Communications were “mortified” after he disclosed, at a recent meeting, how managers at the radio station had allegedly sexually harassed colleagues.

Santosh Beharie, whose 10-year tenure as Lotus FM’s programme manager ended in July, told the officials about sexual harassment and other shenanigans having crippled the station.

“I shared everything with two senior advisers to Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane during a three-hour meeting in Pretoria, two weeks ago.

“They thanked me for the information, which they would compile into a report for the minister,” said Beharie.

Mlimandlela Ndamase, spokesperson for Mokonyane, confirmed officials from his department had met Beharie.

“We had received complaints from Beharie about happenings at Lotus FM, so we felt it was necessary to meet him.

“The minister noted the findings made recently by the commission into sexual harassment at the SABC and the Beharie’s submission.”

However, Ndamase was unable to confirm when the minister, who is the political head of the SABC, would act on the information she had received.

A recent report, released by the SABC’s commission of inquiry into sexual harassment, headed by Barbara Watson, stated that “Lotus FM was run by men who regard the station as their fiefdom and the women their personal harem”.

The commission found that while the SABC had a strong policy on sexual harassment, those tasked with its implementation had not been vigilant.

Beharie said he had raised the alarm on sexual harassment at Lotus in 2015 with a senior SABC executive, but his concerns were ignored and the perpetrators were shielded. He added that he was on a mission to clear his name, especially after media reports and gossip that were doing the rounds. Even his 14-year-old daughter questioned him about the allegations.

“My daughter, who lives in Johannesburg, called me once and said, ‘Dad, you owe me an explanation.’”

Beharie said he had assured his daughter that he had done nothing wrong, but there were people who were trying to implicate him, because he had been outspoken about their wrongdoings.

He believed his contract with the SABC, despite his expertise, was not renewed because he had spoken out.

In 2013, a female colleague claimed she had been sexually harassed by a drunk manager on a plane trip from Cape Town, while returning from a work assignment. She had asked Beharie for advice.

He said he had directed her to the SABC’s human resources department.

“I was the lady’s line manager. She was a freelancer … and chatted to me after her show. She told me about what happened on the plane. She was emotional. I calmed her down in the presence of another colleague and asked her to report to HR.”

Beharie said that at the HR hearing, the manager in question lied and the matter “was swept under the carpet … the woman was traumatised because as a freelancer she could be fired at any time”.

Despite repeated requests, LotusFM managers did not respond.

Neo Momodu, SABC spokesperson, said: “The SABC board has accepted the Commission of Inquiry into Sexual Harassment’s report in its entirety. One of its recommendations is that the SABC establish a structure outside the HR division that will implement the commission’s recommendations. This has been done and the organisation is in the process of implementing recommendations.”

SUNDAY TRIBUNE

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