Don’t mask exploitation with claims of conspiracy

tcjesse Don’t mask exploitation with claims of conspiracy

A Cosatu employee accused the trade union’ secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi of rape but dropped the charges before the internal disciplinary process began on Monday. Vavi maintains that there was no rape but sex happened as the two had a relationship. Jessie Duarte looks at the power relations at the workplace seniors and their juniors.

The contention that a conspiracy inspired two people to have sex in an office attempts to crowd out the reality of an abusive power relationship.

A subordinate becomes anxious and translates anger into transaction in the form of a demand for payment in lieu of humiliation and shame.

This is the epitome of an unequal power relation that (as they usually do) went horribly wrong.

This is not a conspiracy, there is no conspiracy, and there is only one reality in the sad drama that has caused smirks and contemptuous comments on social media platforms.

A man in a powerful position engineered a job for a woman and assumed that sex would be his payment.

Women in South Africa have to become the champions for the right to employment and respect in the workplace.

Women are not toys, nor are we gap fillers while a family man is waiting for a baby, nor do we need to engage in transactional sex for any work position.

The reality is that in unequal power relations, especially those developed in secret, exploitation and abuse are often masked as caring and adoring while in reality it is no better than creating wage slaves for the survival of an economic class with specific needs.

The line between a progressive person who falls in love with a subordinate in the workplace and an abusive power relationship, which develops as a result of transactional sex, is very thin.

Women must be champions who guard against the objectification of our bodies for pleasure and leisure.

It is entirely possible to say “no” to a powerful man when the position acquired was done so normally.

In the case of the unfortunate and sad drama, (not conspiracy) we have lived through this week, the questions much more important than conspiracy are those which seek to establish if the position in Cosatu occupied by the woman was advertised and if other applicants were considered, and if the position was granted on merit.

There is no direct victim nor is there is a victor in this drama.

There is only a powerful man who used his position to coerce a subordinate to have sex with him and there is a woman who decided to transform the abuse in a power relationship into a transaction.

Rape is a crime of violence and we have a duty as women to ensure that we protect one another from any and all forms of exploitation.

Vukani makhosikasi, vukani.

» Duarte is deputy general secretary of the ANC


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