Woman who accused traffic chief of harassment ‘too afraid to return to work’, Newsline

Cape Town – The woman who accused new traffic chief Farrel Payne of sexual harassment says she is afraid to return to work while he is still on duty.

Transport and Public Works MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela said he expected to receive a report from the department’s head tomorrow on the appointment of an independent body to investigate the matter. He said it would not be possible to place Payne under any sort of leave without its recommendations.

Speaking to the Weekend Argus under the condition of anonymity, the woman said she was afraid to leave her home and her neighbours were doing her grocery shopping.

“I feel like I am living in a nightmare I can’t wake up from. I have always been an open person and there are many people who know my character and know I wouldn’t make this up,” she said.

She said the first incident happened in June 2019 after a workshop in Mossel Bay. “A few of us were asked to give an ice-breaker. I got on the stage and did a little dance and everything was fine.

“A week or two later he told me that I humiliated him as a director by dancing like a stripper and he said did I know the men in the audience were undressing me with their eyes. I was humiliated and he said if I did not like it, I should seek other employment.”

The woman said she decided to speak out after a second incident.

“He grabbed me by my jacket and told me I looked lekker from behind. I was so scared to speak out because of the title he held.”

The woman said she had been booked off work by a psychiatrist. “I have been seeing (a psychiatrist) on and off for a while because of the stress and anxiety brought on working for that man. I even had a panic attack the last time I saw him with a mediator.

“I am meant to go back to work at the end of the month but I’m scared. I don’t want to be in that building anymore.”

According to a Public Service Commission report on provisions around the precautionary suspension of employees in the public service – serious charges such as sexual harassment falls under the category of circumstances that could trigger such a suspension.

The Disciplinary Code and Procedures Resolution 1 of 2003 allows for a suspension with pay which could last for 60 days before a hearing should be held.

Another employee at the department, who also claimed Payne harassed her, said there were other women who have had encounters with him but were too afraid to come forward.

“I know of other women who are too scared to speak out and I hope the bravery of the first complainant encourages them to finally speak out because facing off with someone in his position is scary. I was scared,” she said.

“He invited me for coffee one Friday afternoon and I didn’t find it weird because he did that a lot with the other female colleagues. We started chatting about work when out of the blue he asked me what my thoughts were on infidelity and I found it odd that he would ask me something that personal.”

In a separate incident in 2015, the woman said after Payne had not spoken to her for a while when he told her he had a sexual dream about her and that he had woken up in a sweat.

She said she reported the matter to her manager, who told her “it would be my word against him. I knew he was right… he is allowed to get away with things because of the position he holds”.

Public Service Union’s Koos Kruger said this year it had received complaints from the same woman of improper conduct against Payne but would follow up on any other complaints that came forward.

Madikizela said: “The HoD has committed to launching an independent investigation whose team will be appointed to deal with the matter and if they advise us to place him on special leave then we will do so.

“Once there is a complaint against an individual, there are measures in place to ensure that no one interferes with witnesses.”

Attempts to reach Payne for comment were unsuccessful.

Weekend Argus