[LISTEN] Zackie Achmat gets candid about Equal Education scandal

According to the Mail and Guardian, Equal Education’s co-founder Doron Isaacs has been repeatedly accused of sexual harassment, and senior figures in the organisation, including prominent activist Zackie Achmat, has been accused of covering his tracks.

To address the allegations, Zackie Achmat sat down with Eusebius McKaiser.

Eusebius asks did Equal Education let women down institutionally? Did Achmat specifically cover up for Doron Isaacs and bully women into silence and fail to create the conditions for them to come forward and tell their stories and seek justice?

[The] most important thing to remember is that I initiated the call to you to be on the show today. Because I feel that people who are extremely powerful - particularly men - have a duty to be scrutinised, and for me that was critical. I think that I am no less to any other man and in that sense.

Zackie Achmat, Activist

I believe in the reverse onus when it comes to complainants of sexual harassment, sexual violence, sexual misconduct, and rape. The reason I believe that is because patriarchy exists within all of us. I believe that when someone is put on trial, there must be due process.

Zackie Achmat, Activist

Achmat said he believes that the Mail&Guardian transgressed the press code and he will be laying a complaint. He believes the manner in which the paper gathered its news was unjust and caused pain to him and others.

McKaiser asked about the news in relation to Tshepo Motsepe, where several women that the Mail&Guardian spoke to had alleged to have been sexually harassed by him.

He is now the former general secretary, he has resigned from that position. And then there was a story involving Luyolo Mazwembi who was involved in a job for sex allegation against him as well.

Eusebius McKaiser, Show Host

And then... a third wave in the stories over the last couple of weeks, the treasurer and founding member of Equal Education [Doron Isaacs]...they had spoken to at least three women that alleged that he had sexually assaulted them and at least 12 female staff members who alleged institutional failure going back at least ten years.

Eusebius McKaiser, Show Host

We have to date spoken to at least about eight or nine people including one man and told us their stories as well. Now when you look at scores of women over a period of ten years, surely you believe them that they have been let down institutionally by Equal Education and by yourself?

Eusebius McKaiser, Show Host

Achmat replied that he didn't know the period and the specific allegations.

The second thing to say is that Equal Education is an organisation that has reached tens of thousands of people. It has had hundreds of staff members and has acted against facilitators who attempted to have consensual relations with people - and dismissed them.

Zackie Achmat, Activist

He added that he can't speak for the organisation as he was last in the organisation in 2012 and can't speak of what happened subsequently.

Eusebius played clips from various individuals who narrated their sexual harassment experiences that were not consensual involving those accused at Equal Education.

From my point of view, I think it is critical that those people come forward and I be given an opportunity to look them in the eye, and if I did wrong to say sorry.

Zackie Achmat, Activist

Eusebius asks Achamt what is it about Zackie Achmat himself, that has not created a safe space for these women to come to him and talk about the events that occurred.

Achmat says he may not have been on the board at the time so would not have known the dates these allegations or complaints occurred.

I can tell you that many many people are scared of me. They fear me, they fear me some for good reason because I have sacked people that are corrupt.

Zackie Achmat, Activist

I am a very powerful person.

Zackie Achmat, Activist

He says he recognises in himself his grandfather who was a powerful man who did not tolerate things being done badly.

I am 56-years -old and I have been in public life for more than 40. And not a day goes past when I don't think about what I eat, how I behave, where I walk, whether I greet people, whether I look them in the eye and whether I speak to them. So in that sense I consistently try and look at my own behaviour...every night before I sleep I think about what I have done wrong.

Zackie Achmat, Activist

He recognises that there are aspects of his masculinity that are toxic and difficult to deal with. he says there are aspects he has also dealt with in a harsh way.

I am willing to submit myself to public scrutiny....and I am really sorry if anyone has felt threatened and unable to come to me...and I want to make reparations. I as a man, as a black man, have a duty to address those.

Zackie Achmat, Activist

Watch below to the full interview:

Listen below to the full interview:


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