By: Qhawekazi Memani – 30 November 2022

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On 30 November 2022, halfway into the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in South Africa and globally, the Employment Equity Office in the Social Justice and Tranformation Unit at Vaal University of Technology (VUT), hosted an online workshop titled: Dealing with Sexual Harassment as a Form of Unfair Discrimination in the Workplace.

The second of its kind this year at VUT, the workshop was led by Commissioner Samson Phomodi from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

One of the responsibilities of the VUT’s Employment Equity Office is to educate the University staff about any revisions and amendments to the Employment Equity Act of No. 55 of 1998 or the Regulations or the Code of Good Practice relating to Employment Equity. The workshop sought to ensure that VUT employees have a better understanding of what harassment is and how to deal with it. “Additionally, the training was designed to teach participants how to avoid getting into legal trouble,” said Advocate Ntsoleni Dzumba, VUT Employee Relations Specialist, who facilitated the workshop.

According to Mr. Victor Mashilwane, VUT Employment Equity Practitioner, on March 18, 2022, Mr. Thulas Nxesi, Minister of national Department of Employment and Labour, repealed and replaced the previous Code of Good Practice on handling Sexual Harassment cases in the Workplace with the Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassment in the Workplace on the advice of the Commission for Employment Equity (CEE).“In order to inform VUT employees that there is law (amendments to the Code of Good Practice) protecting their rights and dignity and how to address disputes/complaints if they experience such, the office determined that awareness campaigns or advocasy, training, or workshops were essential,” said Mr Mashilwane.

CCMA Commissioner Phomodi, presented on the topic, emphasising that according to statistics, 77% of the working-class women have encountered sexual harassment, bullying, or assault. “Violence is currently a major problem in South Africa. Male and female activists are encouraged to participate in the 16 Days of Activism International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, which ran from 25 November to 10 December 2022,” he stated.

The Commissioner added that among other things, the employer has a responsibility to establish a work environment that prohibits sexual harassment and should safeguard employees’ dignity.