Bono has apologized for the way employees at the ONE charity in Johannesburg, South Africa, were mistreated by onsite management there from 2011 to 2015. Bono co-founded the international charity in 2004 that fights poverty and disease primarily in Africa and which receives much of its funding from high-profile celebrities.
One former staffer described the workplace in Johannesburg as a “toxic environment,” the Daily Mail reported, while other employees claimed that they were “treated worse than dogs,” the Guardian indicated. The charity is now facing a $5 million lawsuit from seven of them.
Apart from allegations of day-to-day bullying that surfaced last year on social media is one married woman’s claim that management allegedly tried to pressure her into sleeping with a government official and demoted her when she didn’t comply.
In a statement to the Daily Mail, Bono admitted that he needs to take partial responsibility for how the employees were mistreated even though he and other board members were assured that the issues were being addressed. He explained the following.
“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…”
Bono added that he would like to meet with each employee who was subjected to abuse and apologize on a personal level.
In a lengthy explanation on the ONE website, President and CEO Gayle Smith, who was hired a year ago this month, detailed that ONE conducted a thorough inquiry into what occurred and outlined that she made sweeping changes in the organization, which included replacing the charity’s top management.
“The investigation yielded evidence of unprofessional conduct and, in particular, what I would characterize as bullying and belittling of staff between late 2011 and 2015 in our Johannesburg office…The overall evidence from our investigation was sufficient for me to conclude that we needed to own an institutional failure and ensure that our organization has in place the systems, policies and practices needed so that this never happens again…”
Smith added that ONE was unable to corroborate the above-referenced woman’s claim of alleged sexual coercion, but does not discount it.
“The charity also failed to pay taxes — despite campaigning against tax evasion — and is alleged to have illegally employed foreign workers on tourist visas,” the Daily Mail asserted.
In her essay, Smith noted the ONE was functioning as a “non-resident taxpayer” in Johannesburg during the time frame in question.
According to the Daily Mail, “Much of the mistreatment is said to have been at the hands of Sipho Moyo, the former…Africa executive director of ONE.”
“Two of the women believed to be the subject of the complaints have strongly denied the allegations, and criticized ONEs inquiry as one-sided, claiming they were themselves bullied and discriminated against,” the Guardian added.
Separately, in 2013, Bono was involved in controversy when it turned out that U2 was sheltering a lot of its cash in the Netherlands to apparently avoid paying taxes in the band’s home country of Ireland.
In 2012, Bono raised a lot of eyebrows among his cohort when he declared that only entrepreneurial capitalism can end systemic poverty and that foreign aid constitutes a band-aid approach.