news shutterstockIn our afternoon roundup, see summaries
of our selection of South African labour-
related stories that appeared thus far on
Monday, 11 November 2019.


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

Doctor, nurses flee as stabbed patient is ‘finished off’ by assailant in Ngcobo hospital

TimesLIVE reports that hospital staff and patients came under attack in two separate incidents in the Eastern Cape at the weekend.  At All Saints Hospital in Ngcobo, a man barged into the casualty ward and allegedly stabbed a patient to death in the early hours of Sunday morning, while doctors were attending to him.  Provincial health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo reported:  “While they were treating the patient for a stab wound in the chest, a knife-wielding man barged in and said he wanted to finish the patient off.  There were 10 guards deployed to various points of the hospital, but the man forced his way through security in casualty by waving a knife around.  The doctor and nurses ran for their lives, and the security guards could not prevent the man from stabbing the patient to death.  The police were called, but the man with the knife had already run away by the time they arrived.”  The suspect is known to the police and an arrest is imminent.  Kupelo said hospital staff who witnessed the stabbing incident would receive trauma counselling.  In Uitenhage, a security guard managed to foil a shooting at the town’s provincial hospital on Friday.  The guard, according to Kupelo, managed to wrestle a gun from a man who had allegedly stolen it from a police officer at the state facility.  The man is suspected to be mentally ill.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Kathryn Kimberley at TimesLIVE

South Coast clinic staff raise concerns after rape of nurse at clinic

Sunday Tribune reports that staff at Nkonjeni Hospital in Mahlabathini, KwaZulu-Natal, gathered at the front gate on Friday to voice their concerns over safety and security, maintenance, and management’s silence after the rape of a nurse there last week.  However, by mid-morning, all staff had returned to their workstations due to management allegedly threatening discipline.  But, Ayanda Zulu of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) refuted claims by staff members of victimisation by hospital management during the protest, saying the plan had been for workers to return to their duties once their memorandum of demands had been received.  Meantime, a source close to the rape victim claimed she had not received counselling since the incident.  Xolani Mchunu, Athopasi Security Services owner, the company contracted to the hospital, said the nurse was working alone at the Gateway mobile clinic behind the main hospital building when she was attacked by an unknown suspect.  However, Mchunu said that at the time of the incident, the security company did not have any staff stationed at the clinic, an issue which had been previously raised with the department.  A spokesperson for the KZN Department of Health, commented:  “Following the adverse incident on Sunday, significant improvements have been made at the facility, which the department cannot divulge due to their sensitivity.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Lethu Nxumalo at Sunday Tribune

Bheki Cele urged by Nehawu to act harshly against cop killers

Independent News reports that the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has urged South Africans to help law enforcement agencies arrest and prosecute criminals who were responsible for the heinous killings of police officers.  Nehawu general Zola Saphetha made the call following the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union’s (Popcru’s) 9th national congress.  Noting that more than twenty six police officers had been killed in SA since the start of the year, Saphetha called on police minister Bheki Cele to put measures in place to ensure the safety of police officers.  Saphetha also said that Nehawu had no doubt that during its congress Popcru had deliberated on strategies and tactics to improve the working conditions and salaries of its members in the police, correctional services and traffic departments.  He indicated that they would study the resolutions and outcomes of the congress and that they would engage Popcru on a comprehensive plan on how to defend public sector jobs and salaries.  Zizamele Cebekhulu was retained at the congress as Popcru president.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Baldwin Ndaba at Independent News


STATE WAGE BILL

Treasury says agreement with public-sector trade unions on reduction of wage bill not an immediate urgency

BusinessLive reports that a senior Treasury official said on Friday that there was no urgency for the government to conclude an agreement with public sector trade unions on a reduction in the wage bill before the February budget.  Commentators on the medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) tabled in parliament in October by finance minister Tito Mboweni questioned the government’s ability to reach an agreement by February to fulfil the undertaking to reduce the public sector wage bill by R150bn over three years.  The credibility of this proposal was questioned given the limited time available to finalise a wage deal.  However, the acting head of the Treasury budget office, Ian Stuart, said after a briefing to parliament’s two finance committees that if no agreement was reached by February the reduction in the growth in the wage bill could be factored in at a higher level in the two outer years of the medium-term expenditure framework.  “I don’t think we can credibly have a new settlement by then [February],” Stuart said.  He explained as follows:  “We are not anticipating that the whole process that has to be gone through with the normal public service bargaining chamber will be completed by then.  That has to stand.  But a decision can still be taken to set an expenditure ceiling that is lower than what is now in the framework.  This would require a political discussion.  A political decision would also be needed on whether negotiations are opened midway through the term of the public sector wage agreement.”  In the meeting with MPs, Stuart said any wage measures adopted for the public sector would have to apply to state-owned companies and entities as well.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Linda Ensor at BusinessLive

Revised ministerial handbook to cut politicians’ perks as austerity bites

The Star reports that Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu has revealed that the revised ministerial handbook will slash some of the perks and benefits enjoyed by members of the Cabinet, premiers and MECs.  The revision of the ministerial handbook has been in the making for over nine years.  The minister indicated that President Cyril Ramaphosa had formed a task team consisting of representatives of his department as well as Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille to review the ministerial handbook.  “That process got completed about a month ago or so.  We handed the outcome of our work to the president for consideration and the president applied his mind,” Mchunu said.  He said they had considered the fiscal situation and what was desirable, and had decided that the cost set aside for ministerial vehicles would be R700,000, and that no more travel claims would be entertained.  Ministers and their deputies would be expected to travel on economy class on their domestic travel, but business class would be retained on international travel.  Mchunu advised that the government would only pay R5,000 for services at ministerial houses.  Security upgrades at private residences of ministers would be discontinued.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Mayibongwe Maqhina at Independent News


UNION NEWS / STRUCTURES

Hawks probe mars Popcru’s elective congress last week

City Press reports that financial misappropriation and other allegations emerged in the run-up to last week’s national elective congress of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru).  On the eve of the gathering, in which the union’s 30th anniversary was celebrated, Reuben Mdletshe, CEO of Popcru’s investment arm, the Popcru Group of Companies (PGC), was suspended.  However, Mdletshe hit back, claiming he was made a scapegoat over a raft of questionable transactions which benefited the union’s president, Zizamele Makhaza Cebekhulu.  At the heart of Mdletshe’s grievance is a R170 million interest-free loan received from Popcru members’ funds in 2016 and invested in petroleum wholesaler Royale Energy, of which Cebekhulu is a nonexecutive director and the chairperson.  Mdletshe was suspended on 24 October over allegations of financial irregularities involving loans, unauthorised payments and using the company’s credit card to buy flight tickets for his family.  Popcru spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said the suspension had “nothing to do with our union and the leadership of our union does not take any decisions on behalf of the PGC board.”  But, he added that they were aware of a criminal case against Mdletshe and that “the Hawks are in pursuit of him – they even came to the venue where the congress was held in search of him.”  In response, Mdletshe said he was unaware of the Hawks’ case against him and of their search for him during Popcru’s congress.  However, he said he had been informed that four members of the Hawks had asked about his whereabouts last week.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Msindisi Fengu at City Press


RETRENCHMENTS / COMPANY JOB CUTS

ArcelorMittal SA to close its Saldanha operation

Reuters reports that ArcelorMittal SA (Amsa) said on Monday it would be closing its steel operations at its Saldanha Works because it could no longer compete in export markets.  The company, majority-owned by ArcelorMittal, announced in September that it could close some operations as part of a review aimed at strengthening long-term sustainability amid cheap imports, rising costs and a flagging local economy.  In a statement, the company indicated that it would undertake an orderly and commercial wind-down of the Saldanha operation, which apparently employs 568 staff and produces 1.2 million tonnes of steel per annum.  It added that the process to wind the operation down would begin immediately and was expected to be completed during the first quarter of 2020.  Amsa said on Monday there were constructive discussions ongoing with stakeholders, including the government and organised labour, to find “alternative solutions to the dire situation in the SA steel industry”.  The next phase of its review will focus on its operations in Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal and some long-steel products rolling facilities.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Emma Rumney at Moneyweb


SKILLS DEVELOPMENT / TRAINING

New pilot scheme aims to inject life into TVET colleges

BL Premium writes that the African Development Bank (AfDB) has agreed to provide R6.2m from its middle-income countries’ grant to fund an enterprise development pilot project in four technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges in Ekurhuleni, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.  The pilot project, being spearheaded by the Department of Trade & Industry with the AfDBank, aims to shift TVET colleges from churning out employable students to producing tradespeople who are ready to start their own businesses after qualifying.  As such, it incorporates two additional elements in vocational training: students spend half of their time working in industry and are given starter kits — a toolbox they need in their trade — allowing them to immediately take up small-scale contracts in their field of work.  The students also work with local SMEs and students in other disciplines and are given resources to form multidiscipline businesses while at college.  For instance, in college workshops building, plumbing and electrical students work on a single project as subcontractors would in a real-world scenario.  It is said that if this pilot works as envisaged, it could inject life into SA’s vocational college system.  

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Londiwe Buthelezi at BusinessLive (paywall access only)


SUSPENSIONS

Ruling that precautionary suspension on full pay requires no prior consultation or hearing

In a letter to the editor, Michael Bagraim, well-known labour lawyer and MP, notes that before disciplinary inquiries employers often ask whether they can suspend an employee on full pay pending the outcome.  The advice in the past has always been that suspension could take place but only after a preliminary discussion with that employee or the employee’s representative.  Now the Constitutional Court has ruled that a precautionary suspension on full pay can take place without this consultation or discussion, even going so far as to say the employer has a right to suspend without constituting a hearing at all.  Yet, the suspension must be on full pay and there must be a good reason for the suspension.  For instance, the employer might believe that the employee might interfere with witnesses, destroy evidence or behave in a negative manner, hence the need to suspend.  If the employer’s disciplinary code allows for a hearing or there is some other need for a hearing, then the employer must go through its own process for the suspension to be considered fair.  Bagraim says suspension without pay would invariably be unfair and could be deemed to be punishment in itself.  Over and above this, if the suspension is for too long a period this will be challenged by the employee or the trade unions.

Read the original of the above letter at BusinessLive


FRAUD / CORRUPTION

Senior cop charged for using state petrol card for personal trip

The Star reports that charges of fraud, for alleged abuses of State resources for personal gain, against a senior police officer, have highlighted Police Minister Bheki Cele’s recent criticism of supposed corruption within the SA Police Service (SAPS).  Lieutenant-General Dumisa Magadlela, the former head of the national forensics unit, is facing charges of fraud, forgery and defeating the ends of justice for the alleged unlawful use of a police vehicle for a personal trip in January.  Magadlela allegedly purchased petrol to the value of about R9,000 on a trip home to the Eastern Cape in January, using the police card, while earning over 200 points on his personal Clicks store loyalty card.  The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) confirmed the charges against Magadlela, who is apparently now heading the project to form a new detectives’ academy.  The allegations are that Magadlela committed fraud, by forging two police personnel numbers, to book out a SAPS Nissan Pathfinder SUV, and allegedly misrepresented himself as a sergeant in the logbook.  The misrepresentation was necessary because officers with high police ranks, such as Magadlela, receive designated drivers and are not allowed to use State vehicles.  Sources said that Magadlela was suspended with pay for 90 days, but has not faced any internal disciplinary action.  Addressing the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union conference on Wednesday, Cele lamented corruption within the SAPS, which the minister said “killed the morale” of police and the community.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Khaya Koko at The Star

eThekwini unveils project team to deal with over 300 outstanding corruption disciplinary cases

Sunday Tribune reports that to clear a backlog of more than 300 outstanding disciplinary cases involving fraud and corruption, the eThekwini Municipality has set up a project plan in the hopes of speeding up the processes.  The cases involve employees said to be responsible for fraudulent and wasteful expenditure.  According to a report that was approved by the full council last week, the project team will submit bi-monthly reports to the executive committee.  It is expected to develop a close-out report with the suitable recommendation by June next year.  The project team will include the city manager, unions and heads of departments.  However, it has not been indicated how much funding the city has budgeted for the project.  Thabane Luthuli, chairperson for Municipal Public Account Committee (Mpac), indicated:  "Disciplinary processes arising from fraudulent or non-compliant actions by officials are investigated by the City Integrity and Investigation Unit.  However, these cases are lengthy, placing a further financial burden to the municipality.  As Mpac, we believe consequence management will circumvent corruption and maladministration as well as enhance good governance.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Siboniso Mngadi at Sunday Tribune


COMMUTING / TRANSPORT

Major overhaul of rail operations in the offing

Business Times reports that government is proposing a major overhaul of rail operations as it pushes to migrate passengers and freight from road to rail over the next 30 years.  Chief among the changes is the introduction of wider, "standard-gauge" tracks across most of the national rail network to replace the narrow-gauge tracks now in use.  The plans are spelt out in a draft white paper on rail policy, yet to be released for public comment, which says the move to standard gauge will open freight and passenger rail services to competition.  Government also wants cities to run their own local passenger train services.  At the same time, Transnet is pushing to take control of the 2,200km rail network run by the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), arguing that Prasa's failure to properly maintain the infrastructure poses a risk not only to the operations of Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) but to the economy as a whole.  Transnet says its arguments for taking over the Prasa infrastructure are bolstered by the repeated attempts by the Railway Safety Regulator to withdraw Prasa's operating permit over safety concerns.  The draft white paper also proposes breaking up the monopoly Transnet holds over freight rail, saying competition would increase the volume of freight and lower rail transport costs.  But transport economist Prof Jackie Walters says it would cost far too much to replace all narrow-gauge tracks with standard gauge, though it could be done on the Johannesburg/Durban corridor because of the volumes involved.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Caiphus Kgosana at BusinessLive


OTHER REPORTS

Cogta proposes docking pay of politicians and public servants for their municipal debts

BL Premium reports that in a bid to tackle the culture of nonpayment to municipalities, a government department has proposed extending to all political office bearers and public servants a law that provides for docking of pay of councillors and staff indebted for rates and services.  Recently urging consumers to pay up, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that while nonpayment for municipal and other services had its place in the apartheid era to mobilise communities against an unjust system it "no longer has a place in present-day SA".  As one of the initiatives to address a culture of nonpayment in municipalities, the Department of Co-operative Governance & Traditional Affairs (Cogta) looked at the Municipal Systems Act, which prohibits councillors from being in arrears to municipalities for more than three months.  It empowers local authorities to deduct outstanding amounts from their staff members' salaries.  In a presentation in parliament, the department recommended extending docking of salaries to “officials of all organs of state and political office bearers”.  SA Local Government Association (Salga) president Thembi Nkadimeng said the organisation supported the department’s proposal for an extension of the provision in the Municipal Systems Act.  She said executives and political leadership at provincial and national levels should all be included as well as all employees of the government and state-owned enterprises.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Claudi Mailovich BusinessLive (paywall access only)


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES AND PRESS STATEMENTS

  • Does the SABC need 12 directors? at Moneyweb
  • Businesses need to get serious about financial managers, at Moneyweb

 


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page