Soldier traumatised by 'sex pest'

A SEXUAL harassment claim against a senior official has left an SANDF employee traumatised and fearing for her life.

The employee, whose identity is known to Sunday World, alleges that:

A senior officer sexually harassed her;

She was discouraged by other senior officers from opening a case of sexual harassment;

She's suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result; and

Another colleague and senior ranking officer assaulted her.

The sergeant, who was deployed from Mahikeng military base to the Musina headquarters earlier this year, said her troubles started when she didn't want to date and sleep with one of the senior officers. "Since arriving at the base he's been pursuing me, and I've been saying no," she said.

She claims the warrant officer started making moves on her on her first month of arrival.

He allegedly promised to buy her "nice food" and airtime, and to give her money. "He told me he'd take care of me and that whenever I feel lonely I should let him know, but I told him. I'm seeing someone."

The soldier said the officer would come into her room even though "men are not allowed in the women's rooms". He would insist, however, telling her that he's her senior and he could do as he pleased.

The last straw was when the officer touched her inappropriately when she was taking a bath, she said. "I was shocked to see him standing by the door. I told him I was going to scream. He said no one would hear me because it's just the two of us."

He moved towards her and touched her chest. "I pushed him away and told him I'll report him, but he said no one would believe me."

After that incident, she went to the human resources department to lodge a grievance against him.

"A meeting was held between myself and other officials and they asked me what sexual harassment is. I was so overwhelmed I couldn't answer."

She said that at the meeting she was convinced not to lay charges against the warrant officer and told that she shouldn't speak to anyone about the matter.

Last weekend, the woman claims, a senior female officer attacked her "in the corridor as part of the ongoing torment".

She has laid a charge of assault against the officer at Itsoseng police station. Station commander Colonel Johannes Mashaba confirmed the case, but said they had referred it to Musina, because that is where the incident is alleged to have taken place.

Because of the stressful situation, the sergeant said, she fell ill . Sunday World has seen a letter of recommendation and diagnosis of her condition .

Musina headquarters communications officer Captain Hendrik Gumede said the warrant officer could not speak to Sunday World because "our members are not allowed to give information directly to the media" without his presence. Gumede is on leave.

Pikkie Greeff, spokesman for the South African National Defence Union, said he was not surprised to hear of the incident. "I can believe each and every point here."

  • tlhoaeleb@sundayworld.co.za

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