An anti-poverty charity founded by U2 frontman Bono and Kennedy family elite Bobby Shriver has been forced to issue a public apology after workers claimed that the “toxic culture” had become too much to handle. The charity’s lofty aims were forgotten, instead, the organization was run as though prolific pervert Harvey Weinstein was at the helm. Women were routinely sexually harassed and abused.
Executives at Bono’s ONE charity lied about the abuse allegations for years before finally being exposed.
“The toxic environment was terrible, with staff treated so badly,” a former ONE manager told the Daily Mail.
“It was awful for an organisation that claims to fight for social justice, respect and equality. I had never seen anything like this… This went on for years. It would never have been allowed to happen in London or Washington but we were just Africans. Their attitude was let them eat themselves.”
Staff members report facing routine humiliation and abuse at the hands of their superiors. The case is so grave that a multi-million dollar lawsuit has been filed. When ONE directors sent a London team to the South Africa offices, the executives belittled staff by telling them to rub an elephant statue to excise negative energy.
“This was the final insult,” an employee complained. “It was really patronising. Did they think we were Africans so some voodoo would help?”
The allegations are humiliating for Bono. The liberal musician prides himself on his activism yet a charity directly under his control has been caught abusing its African employees. And its problems don’t stop there.
In addition to treating its employees badly, the charity is also accused of tax evasion and using illegal immigrant labor. ONE executives blame the former director of the Africa chapter, Sipho Moyo, for most of the problems.
Employees complained about Moyo for years before she was fired. She forced workers to massage her feet, she pressured them into acting as wait staff during her house parties, and routinely the used the staff as her personal errand-runners.
“I thought I was invited to a dinner party,” said one executive. “But I was made to stand outside in heels for six or seven hours as a waitress. I did not even know how to mix drinks. I don’t drink – it’s against my religion.”
Moyo got away with her bad behavior for so long because there was a lack of oversight. The Africa operations were somewhat divorced from other offices. Furious staffers say that they were treated like garbage for years and no one cared. It was as though the African offices didn’t matter.
ONE’s “hostile environment” ruined their lives. It wasn’t until people began paying attention to the viral #MeToo movement that the workers felt as though people started listening to their complaints.
“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,” Bono said in a statement.
“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. You question the whole reason you’re doing this.”
Bono and Schriver founded ONE 14 years ago with the explicit goal of using eradicating poverty. It’s raised over 360 million pounds to fight HIV and AIDS through one of its offshoot groups. Despite its success, the organization still tried to cut corners.
Staff members claim that ONE organizers never bothered to officially register its South African operations and ignored payroll taxes. Staff members were left in the lurch as their scrambled taxes stood in the way of their making major purchases.
“I was paid from an American bank account and no taxes were taken from my salary,” an ex-employee revealed. “The arrangement also meant employees were flouting the law by working under visas that said they were tourists.”
The charity’s massive influence can’t be eradicated in a day. Despite the serious allegations against it, ONE is still a major charity. Now that public attention is focused on the organization’s South African offices, it’s possible that the abuses will stop.
It’s not clear how much Bono and Shriver knew about what was going on.