OPINION

No leniency for men who demand sex for jobs - Mmusi Maimane

DA leader says the term "carpet interview" is known and used across the country

No leniency for men who demand sex for jobs

Note to editors: the following remarks were delivered in Nelspruit today by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, Mmusi Maimane, when accompanied by two victims of the recent "sex for jobs" scandal in Mpumalanga to lay criminal charges against a government employee of the Mpumalanga Health Department who is the alleged perpetrator. The Leader was joined by DA Mpumalanga Provincial Leader, Jane Sithole

My fellow South Africans,

I speak to people every day about the challenges they face in this country. And in all these conversations – whether I’m in a city or a rural village, whether I’m speaking to men or women, young or old – there is one theme that is mentioned more than any other, and that is jobs.

More than crime and service delivery, more than access to education and healthcare, South Africans worry about getting a job. And they don’t just worry about the number of available jobs, they also worry about the way in which these jobs are allocated. They are frustrated by the unfairness of the system, and they are angry at the exploitation they often face.

It’s one thing when isolated people tell you about corruption, bribery and nepotism in the job application process, but when just about everyone has a similar story to tell, then you know you are dealing with a major problem.

Everywhere I go I hear the same stories: You can’t get a job unless you’re a family member or a friend; you can’t get a job unless you pay a bribe; you can’t get a job if you don’t have an ANC membership card. But surely the worst of these stories are the ones about the “carpet interviews”.

For those who don’t know, a carpet interview is when someone demands sex in exchange for a job. Or, in many cases, in exchange for the possibility of just being considered for a job. It has become such a common occurrence that this term – carpet interview – is known and used right across the country.

We discovered just how widespread this was when we took over the governments of Tshwane, Johannesburg and other municipalities. This is a national scourge and we must fight it wherever we see it.

We must also take away the power of those who prey on women in exchange for jobs by introducing transparency in the process and by doing away with executive decision-making. When it comes to EPWP jobs, the allocation must take place through a random lottery system.

We dare not downplay the seriousness of these offences. We’re talking about women who are so desperate to access a job that they’re forced to do anything to escape the unemployment trap. This is not consensual sex. This is coercion. The men that prey on these powerless women deserve the same treatment and scorn as any other rape and sexual assault offender.

And even though many women have told us about their experiences, we know the actual number is far higher than any recorded statistics. This is because many women carry with them feelings of shame and embarrassment, and cannot bring themselves to report their cases.

But some do. And here with us today are two such women who were both victims of the same perpetrator – a supervisor at the Rob Ferreira Hospital where the women applied for employment. He demanded sex from both women on numerous occasions in exchange for jobs that never materialised.

These women have now come forward to seek justice and to stop this man from targeting any further victims. Given their history with this man and the power imbalance in their relationship, this could not have been an easy decision. Even more disturbing was an SMS containing a death threat that was sent after the women reported the matter to the local media.

I applaud their bravery in standing up to this predator. I will accompany them today to the local police station where I will lay criminal charges against him. I have with me both their affidavits, and I have no doubt that these statements reveal criminal offences in terms of Sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act as well as Section 1(b) of the Intimidation Act.

Next month is women’s month, and we will no doubt spend the month talking about the need to protect women from abuse and hardship. But the reality is that poverty and unemployment in our country still affect women – and particularly black women – more than any other group. And all around us, and working among us, are men who exploit them.

The only way we will combat the scourge of carpet interviews is if we deal swiftly and decisively with each and every perpetrator. We need to send a strong message to men who abuse their positions of power and take advantage of vulnerable women: Your days of getting away with these crimes are numbered.

We also need to send a message to women across the country who have been, or continue to be, victims of this exploitation: You are not alone. In the DA you have an ally you can count on if you choose to speak up and expose your perpetrator.

I know the desperation many South Africans feel when they cannot find work. I know how powerless they feel when they struggle to provide for their families. This is our single biggest challenge for the foreseeable future – to expand job opportunities and bring the 9.5 million unemployed South Africans into the economy.

Anyone who chooses to exploit this desperation by preying on women for sex has no place in the society we’re trying to build. We must show zero tolerance for this kind of abuse, and we must show no leniency at all for those found guilty.

Thank you.

Issued by the DA, 12 July 2018