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Women want speed on abuse reports

MBC boss is sent on leave over sexual harassment

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COULD NOT COMMENT—Semphere

The Non-Governmental Organisations Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) has called for speedy action on allegations of sexual harassment at the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and University of Malawi’s The Polytechnic.

NGO-GCN was reacting to reports that MBC Director- General Aubrey Sumbuleta has been sent on forced leave due to the allegations which some female members of staff levelled against him to the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC).

At the same time, The Polytechnic on Monday this week summoned its Dean of Students Luciano Ndalama and lecturer Temwani Mgunda to a disciplinary hearing over similar allegations.

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NGO-GCN chairperson Barbara Banda said she was dismayed with the reports of sexual harassment at the two public institutions.

“We need speed in concluding these cases and the culprits must face the full wrath of the law. When a suspension stays long it becomes an injustice. This is a sad week and we do not know what type of protection we should put around girls and women,” Banda said.

Secretary for Information, Ernest Kantchentche, confirmed that Sumbuleta has been sent on forced leave.

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“I know that a letter of suspension has been sent and it is something to do with a complaint which some female members of staff presented to MHRC,” Kantchentche said.

Our efforts to speak to Sumbuleta were futile as his mobile phone rang twice without being answered before it went out of reach.

MHRC chairperson Reverend Patrick Semphere said he could not comment on the matter apparently because investigations are underway.

Sumbuleta appeared before MHRC few weeks ago to answer the sexual harassment allegations.

A few months ago, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition wrote MHRC and the Office of the Ombudsman, asking them to institute investigations into the allegations against senior managers at the public broadcaster.

For some months now, both former and current employees of MBC, especially women, have come out in the open, especially on social media, documenting what they allege are sexual and rights abuse at the hands of their boss.

Meanwhile, at The Polytechnic, Ndalama reportedly pleaded guilty to the charges levelled against him at a disciplinary hearing which was held on Monday while Mgunda denied the allegations.

The college’s Registrar, Yamikani Chilinde, said conditions of service of academic staff of the University of Malawi on sexual harassment of students clearly stipulate that those found guilty are fired from their jobs.

“We are waiting for the outcome of the disciplinary hearing. The University of Malawi conditions of service have clear procedures on how to handle such cases and these have been followed. It is clearly indicated that for those found guilty, their employment should be terminated,” Chilinde said.

Our efforts to get a comment from Ndalama proved impossible as his mobile phone went silent immediately after we had introduced ourselves while Mgunda simply said “I deny the allegations”.

Meanwhile, Unima Students Union has called for decisive action on the matter following the disciplinary hearing.

“Our plea, therefore, is to ask your office to act decisively on this matter just as you do when it is a student facing disciplinary action.

“Furthermore, we know that the Dean is just the unlucky one; there are some who are abusing their offices and exploiting the girls in exchange for support and grades in Unima colleges. This needs to be checked and brought to a halt,” reads a letter by the union to the chairperson of Unima Disciplinary Committee.

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