news shutterstockIn our roundup of weekend news, see
summaries of our selection of South African
labour-related stories that appeared since
Friday, 8 November 2019.


TOP STORY

Ruling awaited over whether Labour Court or Equality Court should hear farmworkers’ single sex hostel case

GroundUp reports that Judge Owen Rogers will rule this week on whether a case between Oak Valley and its workers will be heard in the Labour Court or the Equality Court.  For the third time, Rogers, in the Cape High Court sitting as the Equality Court, heard argument on Thursday over which was the right court to hear the case.  If heard in the Equality Court, the relevant legislation will be the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.  If it is heard in the Labour Court, the relevant legislation will be the Employment Equity Act.  About 45 men from the Eastern Cape - the applicants in the case - live in a single-sex hostel on Oak Valley, a fruit, wine and flower farm in Grabouw.  They claim they are discriminated against because local, mostly coloured, workers are allowed to stay with their families in hostels on the farm.  The applicants want the court to declare that non-provision of family accommodation for them is unlawful.  If the case is heard in the Labour Court, which is what Oak Valley’s management wants, the hearing will be confined to much narrower issues of labour law.  If it’s heard in the Equality Court, which is what the applicants want, the hearing will be broader and, in the words of their counsel, deal with "trans-generational systemic action rooted in apartheid practices in the mining and agricultural sectors".

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Tariro Washinyira and GroundUp staff at News24


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

Grade 4 pupil suspended for allegedly injuring teacher by throwing pencil case at her

News24 reports that a Heidelberg teacher was rushed to a local hospital after a Grade 4 pupil allegedly threw his pencil case at her.  The teacher was struck in the face but was discharged from hospital on the same day after receiving medical attention.  The Sakhile Primary School pupil has since been suspended following the incident on Tuesday, Gauteng Department of Education spokesperson Steve Mabona confirmed.  The pupil’s parents were assured that the departmental procedure would unfold as per the legislation, which would be facilitated by the school governing body.  Further, it was agreed that the learner would be allowed to write his examinations.  A hearing will take place after 20 November.  "Learner ill-discipline will not be tolerated in our environment which must always be conducive for teaching and learning," Mabona commented.  The teacher is currently recuperating at home and the department’s employee wellness officials have offered her support.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Nicole McCain at News24


MINING LABOUR

Exxaro Resources launches safety campaign in quest for zero harm

Mining Weekly reports that diversified miner Exxaro Resources on Friday launched its Khetha Ukuphepha safety campaign across all its business units and operations, as part of its journey towards zero harm.  The campaign is aimed at improving the company’s lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) back to the target of 0.11 and to establish a firm foundation and culture of further improvements beyond this target to achieve zero harm.  Group manager for safety and health, Dr Joseph Matjila, explained that the launch formed part of Exxaro’s safety strategy, which encompassed five pillars.  The campaign falls under the pillar of ‘talking safety every day’, aimed at educating employees and reinforcing the safety message of the organisation.  Matjila noted that the campaign was being undertaken at a time of year commonly known as “silly season”, during which a high number of incidents occurred in the mining industry, to ensure employees were reminded of the risks they were facing during this period, at work and when they left for the festive season.  Meantime, Exxaro is on track to end this year as another fatality-free year, and is eagerly anticipating reaching the three-year fatality-free milestone by 2 March 2020.  The group employs some 26,000 employees.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Mining Weekly


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT / JOB CREATION

SA investment summit hailed a success

City Press reports that the SA Investment Conference (Saic), which took place over three days last week, has been described by several business delegates as a “resounding success”.  Having set a target of attracting R1.2 trillion in new investments over a period of five years, starting from last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa kicked off this year’s event by updating delegates about the commitments pledged by local and international investors at the 2018 conference.  He indicated that a significant number of investment pledges made last year, amounting to almost R300 billion, had materialised.  “Of the 31 projects announced in 2018, eight have been completed and the money has been spent, and 17 are in their construction or implementation phase ... In total, this represents R238 billion of investments that were announced last year,” said the president.  Among the investment pledges announced this week were the following: the SA Agricultural Development Agency pledged a R12.9 billion package for 32 agricultural projects involving both first-time and established farmers; the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA unveiled a R6 billion automotive industry transformation fund over 10 years; and mobile giant MTN said it would invest R50 billion in digital infrastructure rollout and property development across 21 countries over five years.  Martin Kingston of Business Unity SA agreed that the conference had been a resounding success,

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Lesetja Malope at City Press. Read too, R363 billion boost for Ramaphosa, at City Press. And also, Investors enthusiastic about their pledges to SA, at Saturday Citizen

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Manufacturing, business confidence falls take shine off investment drive, at Engineering News
  • Depressed manufacturing data signals tough task for Cyril Ramaphosa, at BusinessLive
  • Poultry master plan broadly accepted by industry, at Engineering News


MEDICAL SCHEMES / NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE

Private hospital care for public servants is hypocritical, says Solidarity

BusinessLive reports that trade union Solidarity has criticised the recent decision by the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS) to guarantee private hospital care to all its members, saying it was an admission of the state’s failure to run an effective public healthcare system.  Last week GEMS announced that even its lowest-paid members would from January 2020 have cover for private hospital admissions, as part of standardisation of benefits across different options.  Until 2018, Gems members on the lowest salary bands received all hospital care except admissions for childbirth at state hospitals.  That began to change this year, when Gems extended its private hospital cover, which will be further expanded next year.  Solidarity welcomed the move to provide better cover for public servants, but said the development smacked of hypocrisy.  “While Solidarity welcomes the decision itself and believes that all South Africans should have access to private medical care, (it) sheds light on the state’s incoherent behaviour which, on the one hand, regards National Health Insurance (NHI) as a highly necessary intervention, but then negotiates access to private services for their own officials,” Morné Malan, senior researcher at the Solidarity Research Institute, pointed out.  Solidarity is campaigning against NHI, the government’s policy for achieving universal health coverage.  “The message is clear: It will be public healthcare for you, but private healthcare for those working in the state,” said Malan.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Tamar Kahn at BusinessLive


DISMISSALS / SUSPENSIONS

Nomgcobo Jiba abandons bid to get her NPA job back

News24 reports that Nomgcobo Jiba has given up on her attempts to get her job as Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions back.  Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services recently resolved to give Jiba another opportunity to furnish it with representations on why she should be reinstated in the post after President Cyril Ramaphosa fired her.  A parliamentary spokesperson confirmed on Friday that Jiba had written to National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise, stating that she would not be seeking restoration by Parliament to her position in the National Prosecuting Authority.  Jiba reportedly said the reasons for her decision were personal, as the matter had taken a toll on herself and her family.  Ramaphosa fired Jiba and her colleague Lawrence Mrwebi in April following an inquiry headed by retired Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, who found that they were not "fit and proper to hold their respective offices".  The decision had to be referred to Parliament to determine whether Jiba and Mrwebi should be reinstated.  But, Jiba launched a court application, in which she asked the court to order Ramaphosa and National Director of Public Prosecutions to reinstate her.  While the matter was before court, Parliament agreed to halt its process.  The committee then decided to proceed after Jiba’s Western Cape High Court application failed two weeks ago.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Jan Gerber at News24. Read too, A resolute Nomgcobo Jiba does not want her NPA job back, at BusinessLive

Suspended Prasa security manager must be reinstated

GroundUp reports that the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) has been ordered to reinstate Western Cape regional security manager Ernest Hendricks by no later than 20 November.  In a damning ruling by the CCMA on Wednesday, commissioner Elridge Edwards found that Hendricks's suspension was both procedurally and substantively unfair.  He was suspended on 25 April 2019 after two trains were torched at Cape Town Station during the Easter Weekend.  According to Prasa's rules, Hendricks's suspension was only meant to last for 30 days, unless the matter was complex and needed further investigation.  Hendricks argued that his suspension was unfair because it had been longer than the prescribed period and was done without the permission of Prasa's CEO.  But Mark Horn, benefits and payroll manager, told the CCMA that Hendricks's suspension was necessary because "he could have influenced witnesses or tampered with evidence" during the forensic investigation.  "I find that the applicant's continued suspension is procedurally unfair because the respondent has not obtained permission from the CEO to extend his suspension beyond the 30 days as is required … I fail to see how the forensic nature of the investigation detracted from an employee's right to make representations as to why he should not be suspended," he stated.

Read the full original of the GroundUp report in the above regard by Barbara Maregele at Fin24

Manner in which Mkhwebane handled CR17, 'rogue unit' complaints 'extremely unusual', claims axed Public Protector COO

News24 reports that axed Public Protector SA COO, Basani Baloyi, claims that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, as well as CEO Vussy Mahlangu, acted unconstitutionally during investigations of certain complaints.  "The CEO and the Public Protector were both willing to abuse their offices to advance their own personal agendas.  Their behaviour related to both the content of the report, and the timing of release," she stated in an affidavit challenging her dismissal.  Baloyi was dismissed last month, and three other senior officials were suspended, in a sweeping purge by Mkhwebane.  Baloyi’s attorney, Eric Mabuza, asserted that her dismissal was "completely unlawful" and indicated that she has since taken the matter to court.  According to Baloyi, there was more to her dismissal than met the eye.  She claims Mahlangu repeatedly interfered in investigations, which also led to her axing.  "The real reason [for the dismissal] was that I refused to go along with the attempts by the CEO and the Public Protector to manipulate and abuse their offices for their own personal gain," she said.  Baloyi stated in her affidavit that she found the way Mkhwebane handled the CR17 campaign, as well as the so-called "rogue unit" cases, "extremely unusual".  Baloyi maintains that her axing was malicious, claiming she was an "obstacle" to Mkhwebane and Mahlangu.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Azarrah Karrim at News24. Read too, Mkhwebane hits back and is not deterred by ‘betrayal of her office by former COO, on page 9 of City Press of 10 November 2019

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • State capture inquiry: Manyi says he wrote to Zuma asking for his intervention in dismissal, at News24


CORRUPTION / WORKPLACE CRIME

Protector probes labour minister Thulas Nxesi over jobs-for-pals and other allegations relating to his tenure at public works

Sunday Independent reports that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has launched an investigation into Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi over allegations of maladministration, abuse of power, irregular appointments, nepotism and irregular procurement procedures during his tenure at the public works department.  In a letter to Nxesi dated 25 October, she called on the minister to provide answers related to the investigation.  Her investigation follows an anonymous complaint by a former public works employee who accused Nxesi, who is also the chairperson of the SACP, of appointing or promoting to senior managerial positions women with whom he had sexual relations.  The 10-page letter, which was acknowledged by Nxesi on Monday, contained a litany of allegations, including the appointments of SACP comrades to positions within the department.  Mkhwebane also wrote:  “It is alleged that money meant for aiding projects were never used for that purpose, instead it was channelled to various state entities including the Special Investigating Unit amounting to R400 million.  It is alleged that from 2013, yourself [and a Mr Mokgoro] illegally benefited from foreign aid meant for Expanded Public Works Programme and other unnamed related programmes”.  Nxesi has been given 14 days to respond.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Karabo Ngoepe at Sunday Independent. Read too, Mkhwebane reportedly probes Minister Thulas Nxesi over jobs-for-pals allegations, at News24

Former Eskom finance executive granted R20,000 bail in multimillion-rand fraud case

Fin24 reports that a former finance executive at Eskom, Bernard Moraka, and his alleged accomplice Victor Tshabalala appeared last week before the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Palm Ridge, Johannesburg, for allegedly defrauding the power utility of R34-million.  The two were granted R20,000 bail each, and the case was postponed to 21 November.  "It is alleged that between January 2016 and October 2018, Tshabalala - the owner of Megra Transport Close Corporation - colluded with former Eskom Finance Executive, Moraka, by loading fraudulent invoices for Palesa Mine which Megra Transport CC was not contracted to deliver coal," the priority crime investigative unit (Hawks) said in a statement.  Fraudulent invoices amounting to R34m were allegedly created and submitted for payment by cash-strapped Eskom.  Company records show that Tshabalala is the sole director of Megra Transport.  Palesa coal mine is situated near Bronkhorstspruit.  Moraka was employed by Eskom as an assistant officer in logistics and resigned in October 2018.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Jan Cronje at Fin24


SEXUAL HARASSMENT / ABUSE

Investigation into Bishops 'sex scandal' involving former female teacher almost wrapped up

News24 reports that the report into the investigation into allegations that a female Bishops Diocesan College teacher had a relationship with a number of male pupils should be available within the next few days.  Headmaster Guy Pearson said on Friday:  "This investigation is not yet complete and we cannot make any comments until it has run its course.  We will issue a media statement once it is concluded.  We expect the report to be available in the next few days."  In October, it was reported that an academic and sports teacher at the school in Rondebosch, Fiona Viotti, had allegedly been involved in a relationship with an 18-year-old pupil.  She resigned and was subsequently placed under medical care.  Following that, Pearson then acknowledged that "several boys had been affected" over a number of years.  Two lawyers were appointed by the school to conduct the investigation and the first pupil affected also had legal representation.  Viotti's lawyer William Booth said on Friday that as he understood matters, the school would make a decision based on the investigation, and inform him and his client of the outcome.  Booth also said that no criminal charges had been laid regarding the matter.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Jenni Evans at News24


COMMUTING / TRANSPORT

No threat to Gauteng, Western Cape trains from alleged non-payment of Eskom bills, Prasa insists

Fin24 reports that the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) has denied reports that Eskom came close to cutting power to some of its rail routes due to unpaid bills.  On Thursday, Western Cape premier Alan Winde said that President Cyril Ramaphosa and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan had to intervene to avoid Eskom stopping power to Western Cape and Gauteng routes.  Eskom was reportedly planning to cut Metrorail's Strand line in the Western Cape on Thursday at lunchtime, while it apparently also wanted to cut power to routes in Gauteng.  Prasa is believed to owe around R250m to Eskom.  But Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani indicated on Friday morning that all the agency's Eskom bills were settled, and that there was no threat from Eskom to cut power to its routes.  Eskom said it was not at liberty to disclose customer information to third parties.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Helena Wasserman at Fin24

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Gautrain full train service resumed after power outage left morning commuters stranded on Friday, at Engineering News

OTHER NEWS HEADLINES AND PRESS STATEMENTS

  • SA's unemployment crisis, by the numbers (infographic), at BusinessLive
  • Employers, employees, Sars — who really gets the new expat tax? at BusinessLive

 


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page