Women recall strip search ordeal at work

Some of the women stripped naked in a search./Supplied
Some of the women stripped naked in a search./Supplied

Three women at the centre of a strip-search scandal at a gambling franchise in Germiston have spoken out about their shame and humiliation.

The employees of TopBet in Germiston, on the East Rand, returned to the site where they were allegedly stripped and had their genitals exposed by a manager who wanted to know who had left drops of blood on the floor in the toilets.

One of the employees, Gladys Radebe, 56, who worked as a clerk at the branch, has since been suspended after she laid charges of sexual assault against the branch manager who ordered the search in January.

She told Sowetan yesterday how the incident had traumatised her family.

"He's very much traumatised, saying that no one has a right to take off my panties. I have tried to hide the incident from my children because I did not want them to be teased by other pupils," Radebe said.

According to the employees, about 40 female workers were stripped and checked by one of the cleaners wearing plastic gloves to find out who was on their menstrual cycle that may have left blood on the floor.

After she opened a case with Germiston police, Radebe said she was frog-marched out of the building.

Part of her suspension letter read: "The notification serves to inform you that you are immediately suspended from work on full pay, pending further investigations into the
allegations of rape made by you."

Joyce Ramatlou, 25, said they were treated like dirt.

"Imagine coming to work to show your private parts to a cleaner. We felt insulted and humiliated...

"I no longer feel safe working here because our rights have been violated," she said.

"The manager said I should go inside the toilet to be checked like everyone else. We were all standing in a queue waiting to be checked. I took off my panties for the cleaner to see," said the mother of three.

Nomzamo Baliwe, 30, said she felt that the company was protecting the manager who humiliated them.

"It was just a tiny drop of blood which could have been from a cut. I don't understand how they came to a conclusion that it was menstruation," Baliwe said.

The branch was closed yesterday.

TopBet's Dominique Luden said: "We were devastated to learn of the incident that occurred at our Germiston branch.

"Investigations revealed that this inhumane and degrading incident was conducted by our female on-site cleaners, acting on the instruction of one of our female branch managers without the knowledge or authorisation of TopBet management."

 

The branch manager has since been dismissed and trauma counselling would be
offered to all staff, Luden said.

The Commission for Gender Equality has condemned the incident.

"I have also written to our lawyers to make sure that justice will be served for Radebe and the other two ladies whose dignity has been dragged through the mud," said spokesman Javu Baloyi.

The three women had initially asked for their identity to be protected but later they appeared on TV.

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