Primedia group CEO Omar Essack has slammed claims that he is "personal friends" with an executive who has been accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
In response to a question from Talk Radio 702 breakfast-show host Bongani Bingwa on Wednesday morning – whether Essack was protecting Jakins because of their friendship – he said: "No, that is categorically untrue. I am not a personal friend of Mark Jakins."
Jakins resigned as the group's chief commercial officer a day after being formally charged with "gross misconduct" after making sexually inappropriate advances to two staff members.
Essack did admit that he recruited Jakins, but said the appointment was made through the correct processes.
"It is critical that I go through the correct due diligence – in this case not only would I have checked the references, I would have checked others who I know would have worked with the executive concerned," he said.
"Not a single complaint came to me. The first time I came to know about this allegation was Tuesday."– Omar Essack
"In terms of due diligence, there is absolutely nothing [that could have predicted his behaviour]. Anyone I bring into this organisation, there is a risk, we do our due diligence... [but] how they behave once they are brought into the organisation Is not something I can control," he added.
Omar said allegations that alarm bells were raised last year by some staff members about Jakins' behaviour were not true.
"Not a single complaint came to me. The first time I came to know about this allegation was Tuesday [last week]."
According to Essack, a forensic expert also checked his emails, and no complaints were found.
He said he has in the past firmly condemned this type of behaviour in meetings, and that has been frank about rooting out anyone who is guilty of misconduct.
"Where there is behaviour that is unacceptable... we must call out the people... It reflects badly on the organisation, because we have issues of gender violence in our country"
'We could not reveal his identity'
Essack told Bingwa that the identity of the alleged perpetrator could not be revealed because of the rules in the company's code of conduct.
"We guarantee the confidentiality of [the] process until it is completed," he said.
"We have to put ourselves in the shoes of the people who are involved – one cannot reveal the name of the person who has been accused," he added.
A formal complaint was laid against Jakins last Tuesday, and he was asked to leave the next day. But only after a female senior advocate investigated the matter on Wednesday and Thursday, and formal charges were laid against him on Monday, did he resign.
Essack said they were going to reveal Jakins' identity, but they were "overtaken" by social media users who had already posted his picture.
I dont understand why @PrimediaGroup withheld the man's identity. I dont understand why mainstream media is not naming him. We know who he is now, thanks to Black Twitter.— Phil Mphela (@PhilMphela) February 20, 2018
It's not like the man was charged criminally & still has to appear in court.
His name is Mark Jakins pic.twitter.com/NyHeps6dD8
Because Jakins resigned, he will not be facing internal disciplinary processes. However, Essack assured staff members "that they can certainly go ahead and bring criminal charges".