BDS South Africa Slammed For Their Handling of Muhammed Desai Sexual Harassment Allegations

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South African BDS-holes continue to turn on their own, expressing a real unhappiness with how BDS South Africa is handling the sexual harassment allegations against its director Muhammad Desai.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions South Africa (BDS-SA) has dragged its feet regarding the allegations of sexual harassment levelled at its director Muhammad Desai, a statement by a number of organisations as well as individuals in their personal capacity, said.

The organisations believe the situation, involving US academic Professor Sang Hea Kil and two of her colleagues, was not handled appropriately by BDS-SA and want organisations with any links to BDS-SA condemn the BDS-SA’s position.

The statement, on behalf of the Gauteng Palestine Solidarity Committee, Wits Palestine Solidarity Committee, UCT Palestine Solidarity Forum and the Muslim Students Association Union, called “on organisations with a commitment to Palestinian solidarity and gender justice to actively distance themselves from the position adopted by BDS-SA.”

The statement is also endorsed by a group of 27 men and women in their personal capacity, including Fees Must Fall leader Shaeera Kalla, researcher Naadira Munshi and activist Leigh-Ann Naidoo.

The Daily Vox reported in March that Desai was accused of sexually harassing Professor Kil and two of her colleagues, with a charge of sexual assault and sexual harassment laid against him.

The three alleged that on March 21, during a night out in Melville, Desai had sexually assaulted them. The case was eventually dropped. Kil and her colleagues were in the country attending a conference on Palestine which was followed by a study tour of Johannesburg, hosted by the Afro Middle East Centre (Amec).

In a meeting which was held with AMEC media and publications coordinator, Mahlatse Mpya, Kil and her colleagues confronted Desai and demanded an apology from him as well as for a commission of inquiry to be opened by April 1.

On April 3, BDS-SA’s board released a statement saying that “an independent investigation into the allegations against Desai” would be initiated, with the process beginning on April 15.

Some of the problems which the statement speaks to include:

• That the board of the BDS-SA makes no commitment to following a victim-centred approach;

• That the investigation, which the board is initiating, does not allude to any terms of reference or ensures an independent process takes place;

• That BDS-SA did not contact Kil or her colleagues at any point regarding the April 3 statement which was released; and

• That a separate statement was released by Desai on April 3 in his personal capacity, which purported that the case which was opened against him was a “false case” and he threatened legal action in relation to the publication of “libellous claims”, something which the board did not condemn.

When City Press contacted BDS-SA spokesperson Tisetso Magama on Tuesday for comment, there was an assurance that there would be a response by the end of the day.

However, when this article was published, more than 24 hours later, there still was no response by Magama or any member of the BDS-SA.

Here’s the full statement:

I love watching the haters eat their own – it makes me want to eat popcorn.



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