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Wednesday 16 January 2019

Bono anti-poverty charity faces claim of harassment

U2 singer Bono co-founded the One Campaign. Photo: Reuters
U2 singer Bono co-founded the One Campaign. Photo: Reuters

Juliet Linderman

The One Campaign, an advocacy organisation co-founded by Bono, has acknowledged "an institutional failure" after an internal investigation revealed a pattern of abuse and misconduct among leadership in its Johannesburg office between 2011 and 2015.

The anti-poverty campaign co-founded by Bono is being threatened with legal action by former employees who say they were bullied by a senior official for almost four years and that their complaints were not dealt with properly.

The One Campaign, created in 2004 to fight poverty and preventable diseases, launched an investigation after a group of former employees from its Johannesburg office tweeted allegations of management misconduct, claiming some staff were "treated worse than dogs".

In a letter to members posted on its website on Friday, CEO Gayle Smith said that between late 2011 and early 2015 staffers in South Africa were bullied, berated and belittled by managers.

Employees told investigators that a supervisor made them work as party hostesses at her home on weekends. The letter also says a female employee alleged a supervisor made sexist and suggestive comments about her to a government official, and that she was demoted after refusing to have sex with the dignitary.

Smith, who joined the charity in March 2017, said One Campaign learned about the allegations after the employees, who had all since left, shared their grievances on social media last November. The organisation then launched an internal investigation.

The sexual harassment allegations are so far uncorroborated, Smith wrote, but she added the organisation did not "discount any allegation".

The report also found that executive managers were made aware of the abuse, through emails and complaints filed through human resources, and failed to stop it.

Smith said that both the employees who alleged the abuse and all leadership and executive management involved were no longer with the organisation.

Two of the women believed to be the subject of the complaints have denied the allegations, and criticised One's inquiry as one-sided, claiming they were themselves bullied and discriminated against.

Dr Sipho Moyo, who set up and ran One's Johannesburg office for five years, said it had refused to describe what allegations had been made against her or show her a copy of the final report.

Moyo said she became aware that the campaign was holding an inquiry last year and she wrote to Bono asking for any investigation to be inclusive and transparent.

A One Campaign spokesman said Bono was made aware of the findings in November, after the former employees tweeted about them.

Sunday Independent

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