One Campaign, the non-profit organisation co-founded by Bono, is being threatened with legal action from ex-employees who claim to have been bullied by senior staff over the course of four years.
The organisation tackles extreme poverty and preventable diseases. In November last year, a group of former employees tweeted allegation of misconduct from members of senior staff from their office in Johannesburg. They claimed that some staff were treated “worse than dogs”.
Claims of misconduct were reported between 2011 and 2015 as found by an internal inquiry with an employee reporting that their supervisor would order them to do her domestic work at the weekends. While another, as The Guardian reports, alleges that she was demoted for refusing the sexual advances of a foreign government official.
These allegations were revealed in a letter from One Campaign’s chief executive Gayle Smith was has been in that position since March 2017. Earlier this month, Smith claims, an incident report was filed to the Charity Commission.
Smith has released a statement saying that although the report has been unable to corroborate the claims from the demoted female employee, they “do not discount any allegation – we investigate them and will continue to do so should others arise”.
Smith continued: “The overall evidence from our investigation was sufficient for me to conclude that we needed to own an institutional failure”.
Last year, Dr Sipho Moyo, the subject of some of the complaints from the Johannesburg staff, wrote a letter to Bono asking for any internal investigation to be “inclusive and transparent”.
Moyo too had issued reports that she had experienced discrimination while working at the organisation. In an email with former chief executive Michael Elliott, Moyo said that she felt “utter fear and extreme heart palpitations” during meetings with him”.
In a statement, One said it has introduced a number of reforms to benefit staff. They wrote: “The organisation’s new leadership has worked hard to nurture a culture of respect and professionalism, and to ensure the organisation lives up to its values. One’s people are our most important asset”.
Bono has since responded to these developments saying that he wants to meet the victims of the alleged harassment and apologise in person.
Speaking to Mail On Sunday, the singer expressed his anger, saying: “We are all deeply sorry. I hate bullying, can’t stand it. The poorest people in the poorest places being bullied by their circumstance is the reason we set up ONE”.
“So to discover last November that there were serious and multiple allegations of bullying in our office in Johannesburg left me and the ONE board reeling and furious.”