KTDA forced to disown John Chebochok’s election as Toror Tea Factory Director as sex scandal expose comes to haunt him

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KTDA forced to disown John Chebochok’s election as Toror Tea Factory Director as sex scandal expose comes to haunt him

On Saturday, June 29, John Chebochok was elected to serve as Kericho County’s zone director for Kenya Tea Development Agency Holdings (KTDA).

Chebochok garnered 396 votes in the elections conducted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to become the new director of Tegat/Toror Tea Factory.

His closest challenger Simeon Serem got 286 votes while Stephen Tonui came third with 359 votes.

But Chebochok’s election victory sparked an uproar among Kenyans on social media, with the past coming to haunt him.

In February 2023, Chebochok was at the centre of a BBC expose on sex scandal in the multinational tea companies in South Rift region.

In the expose titled ‘Sex for Work’, over 70 female employees working on tea plantations came forward to accuse Chebochok – who was then a contractor at James Finlays Kenya as a senior manager – of exploiting them sexually.

Some of the said victims alleged that they were exploited by managers, supervisors and contractors like Chebochok and as a result, they had contracted sexually transmitted infections including HIV/Aids.

However, Chebochok and other co-accused persons were never arrested or prosecuted because the same victims did not come forward to record statements to the police.

Different stakeholders came forward to challenge his election, insisting that all those allegations proved that he was not fit to hold the post.

In response, KTDA has urged all stakeholders in the tea sector to allow them work with all the concerned players and authorities to resolve concerns raised against Chebochok.

KTDA, however, acknowledges that it has no role in managing the election of tea factory directors, except for the administrative purposes of availing farmers’ details and venues for voting.

“Mr John Chebochok was cleared through this process to run for directorship at Tegat Tea Factory (which also owns Toror Tea Factory) despite being featured in the BBC expose… KTDA released a statement on June 25 urging the independent bodies to ensure those cleared were not of questionable character and unethical behaviour,” KTDA says.

KTDA adds: “KTDA has a zero-tolerance policy on gender-based violence, sexual harassment, corruption, and any other such unethical behavior and we condemn such acts that pose a great risk not only to Tegat Tea Factory Company but also to the entire tea sector in Kenya.”

The KTDA statements comes after Finlays and Lipton tea companies threatened to stop purchasing tea from the factory.

“Please be aware that we will not be able to continue to purchase tea from Toror Tea Factory while Mr. Chebochok holds the role of Director. We are monitoring this situation closely and trust you will take swift and decisive action on this matter. We look forward to receiving your urgent response,” Finlays said.

In support of women’s rights, the Federation of Women Lawyers- Kenya (FIDA- Kenya) penned their concerns to the KTDA CEO regarding these claims. The letter stated, ” This election of a known sexual perpetrator to the leadership of your institution demonstrates that KTDA is complicit in upholding and safeguarding the rights of women workers who form the majority of the labor force in tea farms.”

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