Businesswomen might know how to make a profit but are not always clued up on their sexual rights or what to do if someone close to them has been raped.
This prompted the Cape Town chapter of the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa to connect its members with rape survivor Jes Foord from Durban.
Five men attacked Foord and her father in 2008 when they took their dogs for a walk near their home in Durban. Four of the men raped Foord.
This was shortly after Foord had celebrated her 21st birthday. On Friday, Foord moved businesswomen to tears as she recounted her ordeal at a gathering in the city.
“Those men forced my dad to watch how four of them held me down and raped me… One of them held a knife to my neck and his penis to my lips,” recalled Foord.
Foord told Weekend Argus that she has “taken ownership of the situation and turned it into something positive”.
“I was raped but I have overcome it… When someone rapes you they take your body. There is nothing you can do about that. But the rest of your life is in your hands. You’re in control of it.”
Foord said that her rapists may have “won on that one day” but were handed long-term jail sentences in 2009.
“For the rest of my life, I’m going to win. I’m going to make sure that I live to the full. I have put it behind me, moved on and will use it to help other people. I just try and get as many people out there not to be ashamed of being a victim but proud of being a rape survivor,” said Foord.
Shortly after the rape, she launched the Jes Foord Foundation to assist women, children and men who have been raped. The foundation has so far issued 3,000 survivor kits in Durban and Johannesburg to persons who have been raped.
Foord says this kit is placed in a handbag that women countrywide have donated to the foundation.
“You’ve been raped. You feel dirty and ugly. You want to get clean. The handbag has shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste and any toiletries that you’ll need to get clean. There is also a little gift and note from the person who donated the bag. The note is just some words of encouragement to let them know that they are not alone,” says Foord.
The foundation has also teamed up with the St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban to set up a centre where anyone who has been raped can access free 24-hour medical care and counseling. The centre staff also reports the incident to the local police.
Foord meanwhile conducts motivational talks at boys and girls schools as well as public events.
“So many young girls still think that it’s okay for daddy to touch them. They don’t discuss this with their friends. Nobody has ever told them that it’s wrong. We teach them about sex, drugs and alcohol,” says Foord.
“Many girls don’t know that rape is a crime. They think that it’s a man’s right to have sex with them. They think that a woman is just there for pleasure. I explain to them that a woman is precious. They must know their rights.”
Foord says that women and men approach her after public talks to speak about their rape for the first time.
“A 58-year-old woman came up to me and told her that she was raped when she was 15. She had never told anyone. I am still in contact with her. Someone else like her could be sitting in this room. I want to help them realise that they haven’t done anything wrong and there is nothing to be ashamed of,” says Foord.
“A young man in his 20s came through our centre as well. He told us that he was at a club and was raped by another guy.”
Foord says that strangers also sometimes ask her “whether I hate men now”.
“I say no. You buy a bag of apples and one’s ‘vrot’. You don’t throw them all away. There are millions of men in South Africa. Just because those five were bad doesn’t mean they’re all bad,” she says.
“I’m now married and I was very open with my husband about the rape. If we do get into an intimate situation and I freak out a bit then he knows everything and understands to be there for me. Rape has an impact and you have to be open about it.”
Nina Joubert, chairwoman of the BWA in Cape Town, says that talking about rape with businesswomen was meant to empower others.
“Businesswomen are not just about business. We have to balance all the aspects of our lives, including family. This is about something very personal. Women work in careers and high-powered jobs but what are we doing to educate our daughters about these issues? How are we educating our sons on how to treat women?” she said.
“Hopefully women will walk away knowing that they have rights that they might not have known about before. We create an environment where women feel that they are empowered to do something in their lives or community.”
Desima Beukes, one of nine directors at VanderSpuy (CORRECT) attorneys, said that Foord’s talk had “moved a lot of us to tears”.
“It was very emotional. She’s a remarkable woman for the manner in which she has dealt with the experience that she’s had,” said Beukes.
“She has used the experience to enrich the lives of others. Every woman here is empowered to spread this message to people who are not as privileged as we are. There are women who don’t know about this help that is offered. We now know where to refer people.”
Zahida Ebrahim, director at Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs law firm, said that businesswomen would likely not want to talk about being raped because “people think it shows weakness”.
“We are ashamed of the things that happen to us. There are women who need these services but are inhibited by fear and misperceptions,” she said.
“We are privileged in a way that grassroots people are not. Now we have awareness that there is support for others. This makes it okay for businesswomen to seek these services that they have at their disposal rather than hide.”
Hunt for workers’ money hots up
February 5 2012 at 04:18pm
By YAZEED KAMALDIEN
A trade union’s hunt for its missing millions, invested in two separate funds, is heating up, with a commission of inquiry into one of the companies, Pinnacle Point Group, set to start tomorrow (February 6).
The SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) has been battling to regain workers’ pensions totalling R360 million.
Tomorrow the Cape Town offices of law firm Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs will be the venue for the latest inquiry around shares in Pinnacle, worth R260m, bought by Sactwu. These shares are now reportedly not worth a cent after the property developer went bust.
A second inquiry has been unfolding to recoup R100m from Canyon Springs Investments 12. This insolvent company borrowed the money from Trilinear Empowerment Trust, which held workers’ provident fund savings.
Andre Kriel, general secretary for Sactwu, told Weekend Argus the union would consider legal action “after due process”, so that the “guilty go to jail for a long time”.
“You eat an elephant bit by bit. We will recover the money bit by bit. Even though it’s unpalatable, we’re prepared for a long process,” he added.
The Canyon Springs inquiry has already been through five rounds of interrogation in Cape Town, with the last session running from January 24 to 30.
This inquiry is led by Tony Canny, head of forensics at law firm Eversheds, and has revealed that Canyon Springs borrowed the cash from Trilinear without a proper loan agreement, nor a repayment date. It has failed to repay a cent.
Former deputy minister of economic development Enoch Godongwana and his wife Thandiwe were Canyon Springs directors. Kriel said Godongwana confirmed during an inquiry session that he would repay some funds.
“We are in talks with Godongwana on how much will be paid. Our eyes are focused on what happened, and we want to recover as much as possible,” he said.
Kriel added that the union had also received repayment pledges from other companies linked to Canyon Springs.
“Workers will get all their money that they have invested. We are going to search every corner for this money.”
They had, however, discovered that some of the money had been sent overseas.
“We are going to pursue that,” said Kriel.
On the repayment pledges, Kriel said they hoped to recover money “directly from people involved, and through the sale of assets of Canyon Springs”.
“The owner of another company that worked with Canyon Springs will repay R4m. A Canyon Springs subsidiary will repay R10m.”
While this was a small sum in relation to the total, he said it was a start.
Kriel explained that the provident funds were managed by an independent boards of trustees, half of whom were employee trustees, and the remainder employer trustees. Investment decisions were taken by them.
“These investment decisions have never been discussed in the union structures, nor has it in any way been taken by the union structures,” Kriel said.
But he added that the workers’ savings should never have been invested in Pinnacle Point, “because it builds golf courses which are playgrounds for the rich”.
“We are looking inside the union as to why this happened. We are doing an internal reflection.”
He confirmed that “not all the retirement fund monies have been lost”.
“I have been assured by the respective retirement funds that they still have enough funds left to pay every single worker who retires the full share of what withdrawal benefits are due to them. The rumour that is being spread that workers have lost their lifesavings is mischievous,” Kriel charged.
Countrywide, the savings of 25 000 workers had been affected by the Canyon Springs debacle. The union represents 100 000 workers nationally.
A stumbling block in the Canyon Springs inquiry is that the two main protagonists involved in the alleged fund fraud are unwilling to appear for questioning.
Canny said Richard Kawie, who acted as a Sactwu consultant, did not appear before the inquiry’s last session. Kawie had received R9m, and was directly linked to the flow of money between Trilinear, Canyon Springs and his business entities.
Kawie has been arrested in connection with fraud and is out on bail.
Sam Buthelezi, owner of asset management company Trilinear, has “refused to co-operate”.
He was also arrested in connection with fraud and is out on bail.
Canny said they wanted to push on with their investigation to find “poor textile workers’ monies that have been lost”.
“The people responsible must be pursued. We are waiting for instructions from Sactwu to continue with the inquiry,” he added.
Kriel said the union was “considering what next step to take”.
“The inquiry has revealed what has happened with the money, and where it has gone to. We have a good idea of what has happened with that.
“Our primary objective (now) is to help recover as much monies as possible, and to prosecute those who are found guilty of any wrongdoing.”
The DA said on Friday that it would contact the police’s commercial branch to investigate Godongwana’s “dishonesty”.
Haniff Hoosen, the party’s spokesman on economic development, said the DA had already laid charges against Godongwana.
“Godongwana has claimed that he was an innocent bystander in the stealing of workers’ pension funds.
“His actions suggest the opposite… These are hardworking citizens, and vultures have stolen their money. These are the reasons why poverty will continue,” Hoosen said, adding that he would also ensure that Godongwana and Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel account to Parliament’s economic development portfolio committee.
He added that Sactwu “must be held responsible for getting the money back”.
“Ultimately the union should be held responsible for what happened.
“It can’t be right that workers entrust unions with their life savings, and then the union says that they have done their best to get the money back.”
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said in his January 26 speech at the launch of independent corruption watchdog Corruption Watch that trade unionists “know that unions are not paragons of virtue”.
“Workers’ pension funds are being gambled away, leaving some workers to retire with only a pittance. We must leave no stone unturned to bring those who squandered R100m to justice,” said Vavi.
“Some workers complain that their leaders have been corrupted, and that trade union officials are paid off by employers to turn a blind eye to their abuse.
“This type of corruption results in a situation whereby we have agents of the capitalist class within the workers’ movement who labour day and night as conveyor belts for capitalist interests,” Vavi said.