Letter to editor: Jonkers case shows circus in provincial government

By Andrew Louw, MPL, DA Provincial Leader in the Northern Cape:

Sir,

It is becoming the norm that employees suspended from the provincial administration win their labour court cases, with costs, and that provincial departments ignore the awards against them. During this year alone, the provincial departments of Health, Education and Roads & Public Works have shown their sheer contempt for the rule of law by violating court orders with impunity.

It is only the innocent who suffer.

In 2011, the department of Education suspended an educator on the flimsiest of suspicions. The educator had served the same primary school for 25 years. For 13 years, he was the school principal. When he started in 1999, the school’s bank account had R387. When he left, the bank account had R1.7 million and the school was receiving unqualified audits.

His suspension, without salary, came after five internal investigations could find no evidence of mismanagement. After the educator won his case in arbitration in May 2013, the department took the matter on review. It received a knock-out in the review where the educator won his case with costs in November 2014.

However, the department dragged its feet with the re-appointment of the educator. It was only in May 2015 that the educator was accommodated in the department.

Litigation of this nature takes a serious toll on the employees, both professionally and personally. In the case cited above, the educator lost his position as church leader after a labour relations officer at the department informed the church of the charges against him.

Why does the provincial government initiate witch hunts on good employees and refuse to accept when it has acted in the wrong? Is it because the taxpayers’ moneys are seen as an unlimited fund from which to pay fines and legal costs? With the funds that are frittered away in an attempt to defend the indefensible, many services could have been delivered.

Any party in a dispute may appeal or take a matter on review. What the provincial government is doing, however, is to ignore the courts. It rubbishes the proceedings it must follow and brushes off any judgement that is not in its favour.

This is not equality before the law. A government which ignores its own laws loses its legitimacy and should be overturned.