Judge blast top DG

2009-11-21 15:18

A LABOUR Court judge has blasted one of the country’s top directors-general, slamming her decision to suspend her human resources head after a spat over the DG’s salary.

The clash of the amazons came to a head after newly appointed communication department director-general Mamodupi Mohlala suspended Basani ­Baloyi, allegedly after Baloyi refused to approve her salary ­demands and forced her to take a psychometric test.

Baloyi said the motive for her suspension was to get back at her for refusing Mohlala access to Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda in order to “negotiate a salary equivalent to that of home affairs DG ­(Mavuso Msimang)”. Msimang is regarded as a senior DG and is paid accordingly.

“The second reason is that Mohlala was unhappy with me requiring her to write a psychometric test before she could commence her duties,” Baloyi said.

Psychometric tests are regarded as standard for people employed in managerial positions.

The court ordered that Baloyi be reinstated with full responsibilities. In a scathing judgment this week, Labour Court Judge Edwin Molahlehi found that:
 
Mohlala used the process (of asking Baloyi for reasons why she should not be suspended) as a mere formality;

The allegations against Baloyi were widely spread, vague and failed to state when the incidents on which they were based occurred;

Baloyi was denied the right to be heard before her suspension;

The suspension was made hastily; and

The manner in which it was made left much to be desired.

“It is apparent that the suspension was without doubt made hastily. There is no evidence as to why the applicant (Baloyi) had to make her submission in about five hours,” declared Molahlehi.

He also ordered the department to pay the costs of the application.

Mohlala suspended Baloyi for ­alleged “irregular appointments of staff, favouritism, corrupt and fraudulent activities”.

She also allegedly failed to inform her boss about Baloyi’s suspension. Nyanda learnt about the suspension when he inquired about “certain appointments” from Baloyi who told the minister she could not help him because she had been suspended.

Spokesperson for the department Tiyani Rikhotso refused to answer questions sent by City Press.

“The employee in question is ­currently the subject of an investigation which may result in a disciplinary process,” he said.

City Press understands that ­Baloyi collapsed on Tuesday and has since been on sick leave.

Mohlala served as an ­councillor for the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa until she resigned in 2007 to become the pension funds adjudicator. Last month she announced plans by cabinet to force cellphone operators to lower interconnection costs. Vodacom and MTN buckled under pressure from government and agreed to reduce their interconnection costs by 36c from R1.25 from early next year.

Under Mohlala’s leadership, the department also gazetted the Public Service Broadcasting Bill of 2009, which will see TV licence payments being replaced by a 1% personal income tax deduction.

On September 28, Mohlala had been in the DG position for only three weeks when she asked Baloyi to provide reasons why she should not be suspended.

After Baloyi requested particulars about the charges levelled against her Mohlala suspended her, saying her failure to respond to the notice of suspension was “an ­indication of your intention not to respond to the said contents of the letter”.

“I am not satisfied that your continued presence at the workplace would not jeopardise or hamper the investigation or interfere with the material evidence or witnesses,” Mohlala wrote in the suspension ­letter.

Baloyi first approached the ­Labour Court in October and ­argued that her suspension was invalid because Mohlala did not have the power to suspend her as she had not signed her employment contract.

City Press understands that after Baloyi was reinstated in October, she was allegedly victimised by ­being moved out of her office and ­security guards were assigned to monitor her movements.

A source told City Press that ­Baloyi’s office keys were taken away and she was given a room next to the toilets with four guards.

In papers filed in the Labour Court, Baloyi said the allegations of fraud and corruption against her were investigated by the Public Service Commission in 2005.

“Almost every year anonymous letters were sent to the various ­ministers. The approach adopted by the then minister was that until the people who made those allegations came to the fore she would not entertain those kinds of allegations.”

A top official from the department agreed that the manner in which Mohlala suspended Baloyi was ­unprocedural.

Another official said the ­department had already formulated charges against Baloyi and these would be handed over to her next week.

The charges, the official said, were a duplicate of allegations the National Education, Health and ­Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) had been levelling against Baloyi since 2004. These included allegations of coercion, intimidation, discriminatory practices, patronage, victimisation and corruption.

“Baloyi is responsible for and ­influential in too many roles and has abused her powers to the ­detriment of the department. This should stop,” Nehawu said in the document. – Additional reporting by Moffet Mofokeng

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