According to the Zimbabwe Health Workers Union, high-ranking officials within the Ministry of Health and Child Care are engaging in sexual harassment by offering female employees financially rewarding workshops in exchange for sex.
The union’s general secretary, L. Sarai, sent a letter to the Acting Health Secretary on May 16, 2023, outlining these allegations. Additionally, Sarai accused department heads of taking work-related workshops that were intended for junior employees. These actions constitute serious violations of workplace conduct and must be addressed promptly to ensure the safety and well-being of all employees. Sarai said:
"It has come to our attention that there is rampant abuse of authority by heads of department within the ministry concerning opportunities to attend work-related workshops and other assignments with monetary benefits.
These leaders attend workshops which are earmarked for junior employees and in some cases, not related to their line of work.
In most cases, invitation letters are directed to these heads, instead of passing these opportunities they then grab them for financial benefit."
According to the workers’ union, leaders in the Ministry of Health and Child Care who attend work-related workshops are not fulfilling their obligation to share the knowledge they gain with other staff members.
The union reports that in some cases, directors attend workshops that are meant to benefit junior officers, and upon their return, delegate the task of disseminating the information to others.
Additionally, the union has reported that some bosses are using work-related workshops to solicit sexual favours. Added the union:
"It is very disturbing to note that opportunities that are meant for information sharing and learning are now being used in exchange for sexual favour by some male leaders.
We implore your good office to investigate this rot with a view to bring culprits to account for their misdeeds."
Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal and unethical conduct that can lead to disciplinary action, termination of employment, civil lawsuits, and criminal charges. In many countries, including Zimbabwe, sexual harassment is a criminal offence punishable by law.
Additionally, such actions can lead to damage to the reputation of the organization and negatively impact the morale and productivity of employees. Employers have a legal and ethical responsibility to provide a safe and respectful work environment, and those who engage in sexual harassment can face serious legal and professional consequences.