This is a Working Document and the recommendations are not binding nor cast in stone. Its purpose is to provoke discussion in order to arrive at “sufficient consensus” on the core issues and processes. As with the Discussion Document on the Reintegration of “serious offenders” into the Theatre Industry, this Discussion Document is provided in good faith by the African Arts Institute (AFAI) having hosted a debate that resolved to produce such documents. However, this is not for AFAI to drive or provide leadership in; it is now up to institutions in the theatre sector to take these matters further. These documents have been forwarded to the Market Theatre, State Theatre, Artscape, PE Opera House and Soweto Theatre among others, for their consideration and collective action. They are posted here in public for anyone with an interest to provide feedback, to propose amendments or to refute in its entirety. Any feedback will be forwarded to those who take the initiative in driving these matters further.


The primary objective of this Code of Conduct is to ensure that the working environment is a positive experience for all those involved in the South African theatre industry: actors, directors, designers, stage managers, technicians, theatre students, lecturers, stage hands, administrators, managers, producers and others.

This Code is not intended to replace any existing Code of Conduct that theatre institutions and companies may already have in place; it is to ensure that such Codes of Conduct include the key elements in this Code related to violence and sexual harassment, and that in the absence of Codes of Conduct, this Code – or its equivalent – will prevail.

This proposed Code of Conduct is to encourage all theatre institutions including independent companies, educational institutions, theatres, festivals, etc to ensure that they have such a Code in place, as well as the relevant systems and procedures to implement it. It is highly recommended that this Code – or its equivalent – is included as an integral component of any contract of engagement within the theatre industry.

1. Purpose

This Code is intended to promote a harmonious and respectful working environment for all theatre employees, independent contractors, students, lecturers and volunteers in the South African theatre industry, and to ensure that theatre institutions and all those engaged in work within the theatre industry comply with various regulations – insofar as they exist – relating to violence and harassment e.g. Notice 1367 of 1998 of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), Labour Relations Act 1995, Notice of Code of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases. The Code aims to minimize discord and to promote the resolution of conflicts among or between those engaged in the theatre work, volunteers and others interfacing with the theatre industry. An additional purpose is to educate theatre workers (whether employees, independent contractors or volunteers) about acceptable behavior, and to ensure that aggrieved parties have systems of integrity in which to lodge and deal with their grievances.

2. Application

The Code applies at all times to individuals (local and international) who are actively engaged in, or who seek to be engaged in theatre work in South Africa, as well as to South Africans engaged in theatre work touring or working abroad.

The “theatre industry” is understood to comprise institutions such as formal, semi-formal and pop-up theatres, one-off and regular festivals featuring theatre, training institutions, permanent and ad hoc companies, networks, guilds and unions, publicity agencies, etc so that this Code has relevance to all of these.

3. General Expectations

Individuals working or volunteering within the theatre industry are expected at all times to:
3.1 treat one another and the public with dignity and respect
3.2 act with honesty, integrity and professionalism
3.3 avoid conflicts of interest
3.4 conduct themselves in a manner that reflects positively on the theatre industry generally, and particularly, in a manner that does not bring into disrepute the institutions at which they are engaged either permanently or for an ad hoc assignment.

4. Unacceptable Conduct

Conduct considered unacceptable or inappropriate includes violence and harassment of anyone on the basis of colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, disability, culture, language, ethnicity, age or any other prohibited ground of discrimination recognized in South African law.

4.1 For the purpose of this Code, “violence” is defined as:
a. the exercise of physical force by a person against another person, that causes or could cause physical injury – or even death – to the person
b. an attempt to exercise physical force against another person that could cause physical injury or death to the person
c. a statement or behaviour that it is reasonable for a person to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the person and that could cause physical injury – and even death – to the person

4.2 For the purpose of this Code “harassment” is defined as engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a person that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Harassment is characterized by having something said or done to a person that causes distress or discomfort.

Harassment can include, but is not limited to swearing, teasing, threats, verbal or physical abuse, derogatory comments or jokes, and the display or distribution of derogatory pictures or material.

4.3 Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. The unwanted nature of sexual harassment is what distinguishes it from behavior that is welcome and mutual.

Sexual harassment may include, but is not limited to, comments or jokes of a sexual nature, the display or distribution of pornographic material, inappropriate or uninvited touch or contact, sexual advances, requests or pressure for sexual favours whether in return for benefits or not, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, or sexual assault, including rape.

Sexual attention becomes sexual harassment if the behavior is persisted in (although a single incident of harassment can constitute sexual harassment) and/or the recipient has made it clear that the behaviour is considered offensive and/or the perpetrator should have known that the behaviour is regarded as unacceptable.

Quid pro quo harassment occurs when someone undertakes or attempts to influence the process of employment, promotion, training, discipline, dismissal, salary increment or other benefit in exchange for sexual favours.

Sexual favouritism exists where a person who is in a position of authority rewards those who respond to his/her sexual advances, whilst others who do not submit themselves to sexual advances are denied opportunities, promotions, salary increases or generally, are treated unfairly.
Sexual harassment may be manifested in male-female, male-male and female-female interactions as well as in adult interactions with children.

4.4 Theft, corruption and fraud

Theft and engaging in corrupt and fraudulent activities within the theatre sector or by theatre workers are acts of gross misconduct.

4.5 Abuse of alcohol and consumption of prohibited drugs

The abuse of alcohol and the consumption of prohibited drugs particularly at the place of work, during rehearsals or performances are unacceptable.

4.6 Conflicts of Interest

A conflict of interest occurs when, in the course of a contractual relationship, someone engaged in the theatre industry is called upon to deal with a matter in which s/he has a direct or indirect personal and/or financial interest.

A direct interest can occur when an individual may derive, or be seen to derive, some financial or personal benefit or avoid financial or personal loss. An indirect interest may arise when the potential benefit or loss would be experienced by another person having a relationship with the contracted party. These benefits, losses, interests and relationships are generally financial in nature but may be of some other personal nature. In other words, a conflict arises when a someone contracted in the theatre industry participates in activities which could advance a personal interest at the expense of the interests of the theatre company or institution at which s/he is engaged. Any behaviour that is, or could be perceived as a conflict is prohibited.

Conflicts of interest may also arise when those contracted in the theatre industry are engaged in business or employment activities outside their primary engagement. Subject to their contracts, such contracted parties may engage in these activities if they do not interfere with the performance of their duties constituting their primary contract of engagement.

Those who believe they are in, or are about to enter into a conflict of interest, whether actual or perceived, are to report the matter in writing to their immediate supervisor, who shall ensure that the matter is adequately dealt with.

5. Procedures for lodging complaints and reports about Unacceptable Conduct

5.1 Any person who believes that s/he has been subjected to unacceptable conduct or any person who has witnessed unacceptable conduct, has the right to report the matter to a suitably designated authority without any fear of persecution, victimization or prejudice

5.2 All theatre institutions should have in place a designated person or mechanism (e.g. a disciplinary committee) to which complaints and reports may be lodged anonymously or otherwise for investigation,

5.3 In the absence of such mechanisms or designated persons, the highest authority in the institution e.g. the CEO of the theatre, the elected Chairperson of the Union or Guild, the Head of the Theatre School, etc would be the person to which such complaints or reports are to be lodged.

5.4 Should the highest authority be the subject of – or somehow be implicated in – the complaint, the complainant shall have the right to lodge the complaint or report with an independent entity such as a union such as the Creative Workers Union of South Africa or the South African Guild of Actors (SAGA) or the Performing Arts Network of South Africa (PANSA) who shall each appoint an Executive Member as its designated point for such complaints.

5.5 A complainant has the right to appoint a fellow person engaged in the theatre industry to represent her/him in lodging the complaint, and/or to provide support and representation during the investigation of the complaint, should the nature of the complaint – in the eyes of the complainant – warrant this

5.6 Theatre institutions should have established procedures as per the Labour Relations Act of 1995 for investigating and dealing with such complaints timeously (institutions should aim to resolve the matter within fourteen days of the complaint/report being lodged)

5.7 Depending on the seriousness of the offence, those against whom the complaint is lodged may be suspended while the investigation takes place, while those found guilty of Unacceptable Conduct may be given written warnings, be fined, suspended for a period of time, dismissed and/or have criminal charges laid against them.

6. Power relations

As in any industry, there are many in the theatre industry who by virtue of their positions, reputations, achievements, the nature of their work, etc exercise significant power and influence.
It is particularly incumbent upon such individuals to exercise their power with care, wisdom and respect for those over whom they have influence.

Heads of institutions, directors, lecturers, production managers, senior actors, etc are particularly responsible for creating and/or ensuring working conditions that are safe, respectful and conducive to realizing the best out of all those engaged in the theatre industry, included students, volunteers and professionals.

7. Confidentiality

Information contained in, or related to reports and complaints under this Code of Conduct shall be treated confidentially and may only be disclosed as necessary for dealing with the matter it concerns, and in accordance with the law.

8. Acceptance of the Code of Conduct

I have read and agree to abide by this Code of Conduct and should I have reason to lodge a complaint or a report in terms of this Code of Conduct, I confirm that I have the relevant person’s name, email address and telephone number:

Production: ____________________________________________________________

Name: ________________________________________________________________

Signature: _____________________________________________________________

Date: _________________________________________________________________

Name of Witness: _______________________________________________________

Signature of Witness: ____________________________________________________

Date: _________________________________________________________________


This Code of Conduct has been drafted using the Notice of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases, Notice 1367 of 1998, issued by NEDLAC in terms of the Labour Relations Act of 1995; the Code of Conduct of the Drill Hall Theatre Company in Australia, and the Ottawa Little Theatre Code of Conduct.


About mikevangraan

Mike van Graan is currently a Richard von Weizsaecker Fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin. He is a playwright, and most recently served as the Executive Director of the African Arts Institute. He was the founding Secretary General of Arterial Network, a civil society network of artists, activists and creative enterprises engaged in the African creative sector and its contribution to human rights, democracy and development on the continent. Currently, he also serves as a Technical Expert to UNESCO on the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
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