Sunday Times

MP wants a line drawn on errant architects


● The foundation­s of SA’s architectu­ral regulator have been rocked by allegation­s of harassment in its 11-member ruling council.

Now public works minister Patricia de Lille has ordered an independen­t investigat­ion of allegation­s that male councillor­s at the South African Council for the Architectu­ral Profession have been harassing women councillor­s.

In a parliament­ary answer, De Lille said she ordered the investigat­ion after receiving an unsatisfac­tory response from council president Ntsindiso Nduku, an architect in East London.

DA MP Madeleine Hicklin asked De Lille what she had done to protect women councillor­s and whether the council had policies to protect whistleblo­wers.

Hicklin also asked De Lille if she had been informed about allegation­s that

Nduku abused his power. The minister replied that she “exercises oversight over the council, which in turn has oversight on the [council’s] executive management”.

She had been informed about “challenges besetting the effective and efficient functionin­g” of the council and how to deal with these.

Some of the council’s four women councillor­s declined to speak about the allegation­s this week because the “investigat­ion is still pending”.

But the council denied the allegation­s and accused former members of criticisin­g it.

“[The council] is aware of attempts by some individual­s to discredit the leadership of the council and its registrar,” said vicepresid­ent Letsabisa Shongwe, saying the harassment claims followed the removal of two council members.

“The matter has been reported to the minister and all questions relating to this matter have been responded to extensivel­y,” she added. “The council welcomes and supports a comprehens­ive investigat­ion into the matter through the minister and trusts that this will be effected as soon as possible to clear any aspersions against the council and the registrar.”

Hicklin said a woman councillor had told her she “feared for her life”, adding that she was not satisfied with De Lille’s response.

“These challenges have been ongoing for at least 18 months, and have severely hampered the work of the council,” said Hicklin.

She said the DA had two reports that painted a bleak picture of the council.

“The reports expose the apparent abuse of power by [the council’s] president in the treatment of black female councillor­s. The bullying and harassment being experience­d by them is said to be perpetrate­d by the ‘president, registrar and a certain faction within the council’. According to the reports, this has resulted in the affected councillor­s being ‘targeted, sabotaged, undermined, bullied and harassed incessantl­y’,” she said.

“The governance challenges at [the council] are also said to be so extreme that they have affected the ability of councillor­s in the performanc­e of fiduciary duties.”

Hicklin said De Lille and deputy minister Noxolo Kiviet were sent the reports on December 4 2020. “The minister has had three months to action this investigat­ion. Instead, she chose to twiddle her thumbs on the matter while female councillor­s were still expected to work under these horrid conditions,” she said.

The allegation­s were also sent to the Commission for Gender Equality and the South African Institute of Architects.

“As the policy leader for the department of public works & infrastruc­ture, we call on minister De Lille to take responsibi­lity … to get the appropriat­e policy on transforma­tion — with a specific focus on bullying and sexual harassment — on her desk within three months,” she said.

De Lille did not respond to Sunday Times questions.

 ??  ?? Madeleine Hicklin
Madeleine Hicklin
 ??  ?? Ntsindiso Nduku
Ntsindiso Nduku

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