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‘We’re forced to get naked!’

Employees at Woolworths warehouse in Gaborone have accused the company of carrying out humiliating strip searches on them while at work.

According to an insider at the retailer, the intrusive searches, which it is claimed include being stripped butt naked and having genitals checked, started back in August after stock went missing.

Accusing their Manager, Tlhalefo Maradung, of abusing her powers and enforcing the checks, the insider told The Voice that last month four employees were fired and two suspended on suspicion of theft after they refused to get nude.

Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of losing her job, the source said workers are forced to undergo extreme searches whenever they use the bathroom, go for lunch break and before knocking off for the day.

“We live in fear and we can’t even report such practices at the Labour office because we are going to lose our jobs. This is unlawful and inhumane. Some of the employees are currently on suspension while others have had their employment terminated but there is no proof that they stole anything!” insisted the whistleblower.

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The source added that two months before they were sacked, the four suspected thieves were reported to the police and detained.

“Maradung went to their houses herself, accompanied by the security officers and the police. Nothing was found at three of their homes but some stolen clothes with labels on were uncovered at one of the searched houses. For the others, it was only old clothes they had bought in 2019; when asked to produce receipts, they couldn’t because they had misplaced them – it was over three years ago after all!” said the Woolworths worker, adding those who were fired have been advised to appeal their case before management.

The source also said Maradung had warned her staff that their phones were bugged by the DIS and thus she would know if they tipped-off the media.

The source further claimed the strip searches stopped abruptly last week, the very same day The Voice approached Woolworths about the story.

When reached for comment, Maradung explained she had no authority to respond to media enquiries and referred this publication to Woolworths Media Office in Cape Town.

In their response, Woolworth’s media office indicated they have a zero-tolerance policy against any form of harassment.

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They were also adamant no such strip searches had taken place.

“We are committed to ensuring that our work environment and stores are safe and free from any form of harassment for all staff and customers. In line with our processes, our teams have conducted thorough investigations into these allegations. We can confirm that no evidence of misconduct has been found. We can confirm that our security staff follow the policy related to searching for staff as prescribed by the business. We do not strip search our staff or allow any form of sexual harassment,” was Woolworths’ emphatic response.