The singer Bono has apologised after claims were made that workers at a charity he co-founded were subjected to a culture of bullying and abuse.
The U2 singer, 57, said he was left furious after the allegations surfaced in November last year. He admitted the One organisation failed to protect some employees at its Johannesburg office and said: “I need to take some responsibility for that.”
The One campaign, created in 2004 to fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases, launched an investigation after a group of former employees from its Johannesburg office tweeted allegations of management misconduct, claiming that some staff in Africa were “treated worse than dogs”.
The group told an internal inquiry into events between 2011 and 2015 that they were repeatedly ridiculed and belittled, and that a supervisor ordered them to do domestic work at her home at weekends. Another alleged she was demoted for refusing to become intimate with a foreign government official, after her manager made “sexist and suggestive comments” about her to him.
The allegations were revealed in a letter to members from Gayle Smith, who became One’s chief executive in March 2017. She said One had filed a serious incident report to the Charity Commission this month.
The inquiry found that a former official subjected junior employees to “verbal or email statements such as calling individuals ‘worthless’, ‘stupid’ and an ‘idiot’, at times doing so in front of third parties,” One said.
Smith said the campaign had not been able to corroborate the “appalling claims” that the female employee had been demoted for not becoming intimate with the foreign official, but added: “We do not discount any allegation – we investigate them and will continue to do so should others arise.”
Bono told the Mail on Sunday: “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.”