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

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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.

@winnie_masara

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  • Predator

    This Tafirenyika woman is dangerous. Why not going straight to the police than blackmailing. She even goes to the extent of medling into the company affairs. I hardly believe she was sexually harassed at all. I am sorry to say this. She is an attention seeker and people of her nature are dangerous to society. Check her list of demands compared to going to the police.

    • Sonde

      Wait until they touch your Daughters Bum.

      • Tonde

        I will kill whoever does that to my daughter!

        • Sonde

          Well said Tonde. You cannot let Tondele be touched by strangers. If they touch Sondela they are dead my Northern brother.

          • Duze

            Wena you spelt Tondes Daughters name is Toondela not Tondela kkk

          • Sonde

            Duze that is below the belt.

          • Duze

            Sondela. That is a nice Southern name KKKKKK

        • Xamu

          I once dated yr daughter. She had a very tasty furry animal!

  • HMM

    Desperate Zimbo let her report her case to the police, don’t give her anymore freebies

    • Shlama

      She sounds aggrieved & I wonder why she didn’t make a police report in the first place. Running to the reception area of an abuser doesn’t make sense at all. Attention seeking tendencies

    • Sonde

      Wait until they touch your Daughters Bum..

    • mantswane

      may be the guy was proposing love, what is the standard procedure so that it doesn’t end up as harassment

  • Skwamula

    The world needs more strong women like this one. I can imagine the courage it took to make her ordeal public in this patriarchal society, where she knew people would be quick to judge and dismiss her. She’s fighting not only for herself but future victims of such abuse. Wild horizons if your guy did this, do the right thing by apologising and amending your code of operations. To Tinashe I say keep your chin up girl and may God give you the strength to see this thing through

  • Doctor Do little

    As far as I am concerned when a company offers compensation for something they say their employee did not do and then there is something that does not add up. Five thousand dollars is to me an admission of guilt. I don’t believe them. I also don’t see some one out of the blue just choosing a certain individual to blame for such a thing. There is a possibility that some scheming person could lay that type of a trap so when you are in a position of trust you do not get familiar with a client. The Problem with some people is that if a woman behaves friendly they think she is giving them a green light to something else. We see it all the time in our society these days. People in positions of trust must be more professional.

  • Zvimba Resident

    Ngaayende kure uyo, ngaabveapo mhani uyo. Anofunga kuti zvinoshamisira here zvaakaitwa. Vamwe vanorohwa nyoro asi havataure uyu ongobatwa abekutochema. Futseki wake

  • 100%ZimGirl

    There is two sides to every story. She may or may not have been wronged.And that doesn’t matter really, as long as she believes she was.
    1. Why did Miss Tafirenyika not immediately report the matter to the police? A week later even, if she was as aggrieved as she states. Why make vibes about it now, after engaging and entertaining the company for all these months negotiating some sort of compensation/settlement and only now pushing the story all over social media. Have seen a Facebook post where she was actually urging her followers to share the story so that “justice could be done”. What justice comes from the media (except maybe this company losing potential clients?) Just sounds vindictive and probably a fulfillment of a threat she made to them to “expose” after they failed to meet the demands she had/ageements they had reached in discussing the matter. For them to get to a non-disclosure point via the lawyer, there must have been several communications/agreements between her and company up to that point.
    2. What company would insist on keeping on board an employee who has been proven to have sexually assaulted a client? – Seems to me the company DID investigate and found the allegations not to be true, unclear etc (they could be right or wrong on this conclusion – but I don’t understand how they would protect a low level employee at the stake of their reputation)BUT, in light of the “client is king”,” customer is always right”, they went on to do what we marketers call “service recovery” – offering refund, giveaways, re-run of the holiday etc but it seems (that’s if the lawyer’s version is correct) the demands kept getting higher and higher once the wronged lady figured out how much they were keen to protect their image)
    3. The company seems to have been too eager to make this go away because $5000 seems quite steep an offer for a service recovery gig unless of course the figure was hiked to make Miss Tafirenyika feel like she was getting a real bargain? Get her to sign quickly and get her off their backs. Just makes you think they could have something to hide, when you look at it..

    Kudos to Tinashe for coming out with this. Takes a certain level of emotional strength to stand on a story like this. We can only hope it will achieve what it is meant to achieve. But please, take it to the courts of law and get real justice. The media will use your story to sell papers, the company will lose a few potential clients maybe. Her public profile will rise a bit (cos now we know what multi-awards she won which we had no idea about) but real justice? SUE THEM!!!!

  • God of War

    If the harassment had been serious; i think she would have gone to the cops; but in this instance i think Knowledge only squeezed her bum.

    • Mdala Moyo

      And you think that’s not serious??

      • God of War

        Not really!

  • Munationalist

    Some time people get too excited over nothing, seem like this woman did not understand the nature of the activity he was doing. I have done the canopy tour and will have the following to say:-

    1. The client is harnessed by the guides, the way the harness are designed there i no way the guide or the instructor can not have conduct with client’s bums, or waist.

    2. There are two guides on this trip, one goes in front the other one at the back. The guide at the back checks the harness of the client at every stop, before helping them off the platform. The guide in front will help the client have a safe landing, this may involve holding the client at any part of his or her body since safety is priority. the guide can not let some one hit against a rock or tree just because he is scared to touch a sensitive part of her body. This happens in all adventure spots like rafting, canoeing, etc.

    3. The harness checks are done on 9 different points and I am sure this is this lady is terming sexual harassment. From my tour we had two guides and I wonder how some one benefit from touch a stranger’s bum? The guides told me they spent almost the whole day on those wires with different groups.

    4. Companies always try to make clients happy even the client is very wrong they try to make the client feel that they are kings hence they go out of way to offer what activities which they really don’t have to pay for, eg free trip, free accommodation, free transport, ete but all these are given when there are free spaces which the company could not sell anywhere.

    5. From the social media doing rounds this incident took place in May. Why will some one who is a public figure wait for 4 months to open up? Why only after being offered this and that, also asking for this and that? To me this is no longer a genuine complain but blackmailing after noticing that one can not get rich out of this. Why try to solve a criminal case through the company structures, why media and not report to the police? I am sure that she have an advisor who may have advised her wrongly here? Even if if takes the case to court its now have so many weakness rather than witness.

    6. She demanded that the company fire the staff? Surely the company can only take such touch action based on the out come of the court case, or may suspend this employee based on a police report rather some one’s words. Just imagine what this world will be if every woman can claim abuse and get her boss or workmates fired with out any case reported to the police?

    7. Lastly there is social justice to the company, its employee and this lady too, above all God is watching.

  • xhiba

    why did she not report the matter to the police so that its investigated, there has to be fairness both sides

  • Tyson

    Is this not a way of making money by trying to tarnish the image of the company???? But there is no smoke without fire;;;;Either its a deal which went wrong or else….. Learn to pay for services guys

  • Ras Makate (Mutunhu une Mago)

    Many a time I have come across and witnessed the idiotic actions of men who believe that a woman on her own (or women on their own) is easy pickings, their approach is so crude and best described as caveman tactics….. It can be extremely embarrassing for other men in the vicinity when this happens… Many years ago I had to rescue a high school girl when we were passengers on the same long distance bus after she was targeted by such a yob, a couple of loose teeth and a black eye did the trick…