COLONEL NOT GUILTY

A HIGH-RANKING officer in the South African Air Force has been cleared of sexual harassment charges after witnesses claimed they were intimidated to make false allegations against him.

A HIGH-RANKING officer in the South African Air Force has been cleared of sexual harassment charges after witnesses claimed they were intimidated to make false allegations against him.

The military court in Thaba Tshwane, Pretoria, found Colonel Eugene Motati not guilty and discharged him on all five charges.

Motati is attached to the directorate of foreign relations in the air force.

Witnesses testified that they were intimidated into making false accusations of sexual harassment against him.

Motati was charged with crimen injuria, two counts of indecent assault and two counts of ill-treatment of a subordinate after a junior member of staff laid a complaint against him in June last year.

The complainant, Corporal Sannie Mehlape, had told the court that Motati grabbed her by the hips from behind and made sexual movements in front of her colleagues.

Mehlape told the court the harassment had begun in 2006.

Witnesses singled out another senior official in the directorate, Brigadier-General Tersia Jacobs, as being behind the plot to discredit Motati.

The sitting took place last week.

Corporal Nonhlanhla Malinga testified she was approached by two colleagues who said they were acting on instructions from Jacobs.

Malinga told the court the two had tried to persuade her to make false statements against Motati but she refused.

She said the two officers assured her that Jacobs would "support and protect" her should the case be heard in court.

Motati, who was suspended more than a year ago, said he felt vindicated.

"I have always known that I was innocent but it has dawned on me just how much I have lost," he said.

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