Statement by the Board of BDS South Africa

03 April 2019

The Board of the human rights and Palestine solidarity organisation, BDS South Africa, condemns all forms of harassment, sexual and other. The scourge of violence, intimidation and harassment of women, in particular, is abominable. We are acutely aware that sexism and harassment can rear its ugly head in any space, including within the NGO sector.

We treat accusations of such very seriously. We do not and will not hesitate to report such to the relevant authorities and, in addition, take appropriate and decisive disciplinary action within the organization against members who are perpetrators, protectors or promotors.

The organization has in the past conducted workshops on sexual harassment and will continue to do so. We will furthermore be reviewing our policy on this and intend on holding further sessions with all our staff, interns, volunteers and board members.

We note the allegations made against our Director, Muhammed Desai, relating to events purported to have occurred on 21st of March 2019. We also note his denial and the closure by the authorities of the case.

While these allegations did not relate in any way to employees in the work space, we acknowledge the need to go beyond simple labour law. This is even more important in matters where people are in (or are perceived to be in) positions of leadership. Leaders are expected to consistently conduct themselves in conformity with the larger objectives of the organization, in this case – a struggle for a world free of racial, class, caste, gender or sexual injustice.

Organizations such as ours are required to follow a higher standard than that required by legal processes. We shall thus be initiating an independent investigation into the allegations against Desai with proportionate seriousness to them. The process will begin 15th of April 2019 and will be concluded within a month.

Following the report the organisation will respond in line with our values and commitment to justice.