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Instagram scandal: Grove on ‘unpaid leave’, Cape Town Partnership boss speaks out

In the wake of the Skye Grove Instagram scandal, the CEO of Cape Town Partnership, Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana on Wednesday issued a statement in support of Grove in her capacity as head of communications of the organisation.

In an email circular to the Cape Town Partnership community Makalima-Ngewana writes: “I believe that Skye’s actions in her private life have not detracted from the value she adds to our organisation. Nor do I have reason to believe that she’s been responsible for any misdemeanors in the course of her work at the Cape Town Partnership.”

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The Cape Town partnership is a public-private-NGO, formed 10 years ago, that is a collaboration between the public and private sectors working together to develop, promote and manage Cape Town Central City as “a place for all citizens”. It is an organisation formed by the City of Cape Town, the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA), the Cape Town Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other stakeholders.

Memeburn broke the initial story on Monday after a tip-off from a “concerned member of the community”, alleging plagiarism and fraud with regard to Grove’s activities in posting and then selling Instagram photos online that belong to other photographers.

It was alleged that Grove was further removed as a judge for the 2015 iPhoneography competition, an annual photography competition run by the iStore which sees users submit photographs taken with their iPhones. Although the iPhoneography organisers did not want to divulge the reasons for Skye Grove’s dismissal as a judge, they confirmed that Grove had been removed from the judging panel following a “mutual agreement” between the two parties.

Grove, who is one of the country’s top Instagrammers and an influencer with more than 40 000 followers, has since apologised to the community and deleted her social media accounts. The story has since lit up Twitter for the past few days with various users expressing a mixture of anger, disappointment and even a few expressing some support for Grove.

Makalima-Ngewana writes, that in the wake of the ordeal, Grove has taken a week’s unpaid leave and that her organisation will “proceed cautiously and will continue to monitor the situation”. The Cape Town Partnership boss claims that Grove has also been “the subject of an anonymous email campaign”.

“I am aware that these actions occurred in Skye’s personal life and in her capacity as a hobby photographer. I am also aware that personal and professional reputations are intertwined in the current social media climate. These blurred boundaries can bring painful truths to light. They also offer opportunities for profound learning and compassion,” writes Makalima-Ngewana.

Makalima-Ngewana adds that Grove had issued “a detailed explanation and apology in which she has made it clear that she sincerely regrets her error of judgment. We appreciate her candor.”

Despite acknowledging Grove’s “grave error of judgement”, Makalima-Ngewana expresses broad support for her employee, writing that “for the past two years, I have come to value her insights, contribution and professionalism.”

“Even great people are capable of grave errors of judgement,” writes Makalima-Ngewana.

READ ORIGINAL NEWSLETTER HERE:

A letter from Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana

It’s come to my attention that Skye Grove, Cape Town Partnership’s Communication Manager, has been the subject of an anonymous email campaign and an online article highlighting several instances where she appropriated the photographic work of others on her personal social media platforms.

I am aware that these actions occurred in Skye’s personal life and in her capacity as a hobby photographer. I am also aware that personal and professional reputations are intertwined in the current social media climate. These blurred boundaries can bring painful truths to light. They also offer opportunities for profound learning and compassion.

As the Cape Town Partnership, we are strong supporters of the creative arts and place a high value on an artist’s intellectual property. We will redouble our efforts to work together with our partners, board and staff to ensure that artists are educated about their rights and responsibilities, and that we set a good example.

For her part, Skye has issued a detailed explanation and apology in which she has made it clear that she sincerely regrets her error of judgment. We appreciate her candor.

As Skye Grove’s employer for the past two years, I have come to value her insights, contribution and professionalism. I believe that Skye’s actions in her private life have not detracted from the value she adds to our organisation. Nor do I have reason to believe that she’s been responsible for any misdemeanors in the course of her work at the Cape Town Partnership.

Even great people are capable of grave errors of judgement. In acknowledgement of the gravity of the situation, Skye has elected to take a week’s unpaid leave. During this time we will proceed cautiously and will continue to monitor the situation.

Thank you

Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana
CEO: Cape Town Partnership

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Image via the Cape Town Partnership website

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