‘Listen to the voices’

2013-12-03 00:00

FIVE appeal judges were unanimous in ruling that employers had to take seriously employees’ requests for leave because of ancestral visions or other traditional beliefs.

This after an employer, Kievits Kroon Country Estate in the east of Pretoria, dismissed one of its senior employees, Johanna Mmoledi, after a disciplinary hearing when Mmoledi had taken a month’s leave without her employer’s permission.

Mmoledi argued that her employer was aware that she had to take a month off from work to be trained as a traditional healer.

A trained traditional healer gave Mmoledi a letter in which she stated Mmoledi was “under her care” and that Mmoledi had received “visions” and “calls” from her ancestors that Mmoledi had to obey.

Mmoledi’s argued that Kievits Kroon had to accept the traditional healer’s letter as equivalent to a medical certificate by a conventional doctor.

On the strength of the letter, she had to get sick leave for the month that she did not report for duty.

The benches of both the Labour Court and the Labour Appeals Court had now agreed with Mmoledi. Appeal judges F. Brand, A. Cachalia, L. Leach, M. Wallis and R. Zondi pointed out that up to 80% of South Africans consult traditional healers for their “physical, spiritual and emotional health”.

A statement by the judges explained that while SA’s courts were equipped to solve disputes concerning conventional medical practices, traditional beliefs and cultural practices are not controlled like conventional medicine practices.

The statement said the courts are therefore not able to judge the acceptability, logic and understanding of the relevant belief.

The only issues the judges concern themselves with are the sincerity of the party’s beliefs and if these beliefs are not perhaps abused with hidden motives.

The judges said Kievits Kroon should not have summarily rejected Mmoledi’s “medical certificate” from a traditional healer, but should have treated it as equal to a conventional medical certificate.

The five judges ruled that Mmoledi was dismissed unfairly.

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