SEXUAL ABUSE COVER-UP. . . Worker harasses client, tour firm plays down incident

Local

Whinsley Masara, Chronicle Reporter
A TOP resort company employee has been accused of sexually harassing a client and the company allegedly offered her a trip package worth more than $5 000 to conceal the matter.
Wild Horizons, based in Victoria Falls has however denied the allegation of the incident, which is said to have occurred on a package tour run by the company on May 27 this year.
Multi-award winning artist and poet, Miss Tinashe Tafirenyika of Bulawayo said she has been communicating with Wild Horizons over the issue since then but no action has been taken against her assailant.
She said a Wild Horizons employee, identified only as Knowledge, sexually harassed her during a canopy tour which she had booked with her sister.
“The company, on behalf of Knowledge, has recently offered me a trip package, instead of him apologising, which I expected after he admitted committing the offence. I feel the offer is a bribe,” said Miss Tafirenyika.
“A weekend that I had set aside to sample the splendours of our country’s premier resort was spoiled by this one person, yet everyone in the town had been so nice to us.”
She said Knowledge made a very inappropriate physical pass at her.
“I’m uncomfortable disclosing the exact nature of his action. I was mortified, naturally. I had not expected such behaviour from anyone, especially not at a resort of that nature.
“I reported the incident at the reception, which was in itself unpleasant as all the staff present at the time was male,” said Miss Tafirenyika.
She said she struggled in vain not to think about the issue and enjoy what was left of the weekend.
Two days later, Miss Tafirenyika said, the activities manager, emailed her asking for a detailed report of the incident, which she provided.
“When I asked what corrective action had been taken, Mr Ndlovu ignored me until I sent him another email on June 21 threatening litigation. Wild Horizons HR director, Nevison Bara, then emailed on June 22 and asked that I meet Barbara Murasiranwa, their Corporate Affairs Director, which I did.”
“On June 29, I met her and the HR assistant, where they offered me and my sister refunds and Wild Horizons merchandise, expecting that an oversized t-shirt and cap were supposed to make everything all better,” she said.
“I explained to them that it wasn’t really the money but the principle. I felt if I were white or another race or an international tourist, or had been a man, or travelling with a man, Knowledge would not have harassed me. The incident only gave credibility to the notion that young black women are not safe travelling alone in their own country.”
“I told them I would consider not making the incident public if they improved their company policy to ensure such does not happen again and in the event that it does, it is handled better.”
“I received a letter drafted by the Wild Horizons lawyer, Givemore Mvhiringi, on July 13. It was a non-disclosure agreement I was meant to sign.
“I sent a letter, asking them to review the agreement and also add basic things such as a written apology from Knowledge since they wouldn’t fire him. Wild Horizons responded by insulting me, saying the holiday they offered was worth a lot of money and was ‘substantial.’
“I would like to believe the changes I had asked them to implement, like having a female member of staff at their reception, would cost much less than the $5 217 holiday they were trying to force down my throat.”
Mr Mvhiringi denied the allegations saying Miss Tafirenyika was trying to blackmail the company.
“Our clients’ investigations into the whole complaint revealed that its client Miss Tafirenyika was not sexually harassed.
“Internal investigations were carried out. After the client expressed further dissatisfaction, our client met the corporate affairs director and human resources [assistant] who refunded its client as per their company policy and procedure when issues concerning activities have been raised but all is done at the company’s discretion.
“Client demanded that Wild Horizons also refund her sister which was done and that she be compensated by coming back to re-experience the product. Our client acceded to her demands in the interests of keeping a client happy but the client indicated that she was financially incapacitated so she would need to be transported to Victoria Falls and back to Bulawayo, to be accommodated and be fed in Victoria Falls.
“Surprisingly, she also demanded that Wild Horizons host her entire family of five and still our client acceded to her demands, without prejudice, believing she was an offended client and this is where the $5 000 is coming from. However, she went on to demand that Wild Horizons gives her access to its internal policy in dealing with female clients’ complaints in a male environment,” he said.
Mr Mvhiringi said the refund was in line with Wild Horizons’ client policy not an admission of guilt.
“All this was done without prejudice and it was not an admission of guilt at all as our client’s investigations had revealed that the client had not been sexually harassed. The company never had the intention to bribe or conceal the matter as the client was always at liberty and is still at liberty to report the case to the police.”
“Our client never offered the client a package and the refund was done in terms of company policy since to our client the ‘customer is king’ and they are very sensitive to gender and race issues,” he said. Chronicle

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