Limpopo premier backs down, reinstates govt spokesperson over EFF leak claims

2020-02-20 18:11
Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha. (Sandile Ndlovu, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)

Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha. (Sandile Ndlovu, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)

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After a week of going back and forth, the office of the premier in Limpopo has now agreed to implement an order by the General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council (GPSSBC) by reinstating government spokesperson Phuti Seloba.

The order, which found his suspension to be illegal and unfair, was issued last week. It was also ordered that he resume his duties on Monday this week.

Seloba, accompanied by provincial and regional leaders of the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), reported for duty on Monday. However, upon his arrival on Tuesday, he was denied access to the building, with a notice displayed in the guardhouse that he should not be allowed entry as he was still on suspension.

Nehawu then issued a scathing statement accusing Premier Stan Mathabatha of disregarding institutions and the laws of the country.

READ | Limpopo govt spokesperson's suspension found to be illegal and unfair

"The premier's decision to disregard the order to lift Seloba's suspension, is a perpetuation of fruitless and irregular expenditure, this being perpetuated in total disregard of the law and rulings/directives of both the Public Service Commission and the GPSSBC," the statement said.

Seloba received the suspension letter on November 6, 2019 following allegations that he had been divulging sensitive information to EFF provincial chairperson Jossey Buthane since 2017.

Buthane posted the allegations on a social media platform late last year, leading to Seloba's suspension.

Among the allegations was that Seloba told Buthane that Mathabatha sometimes missed appointments and meetings, including those for which accommodation had been booked, because of alcohol consumption.

Seloba was then suspended, which he later challenged in the GPSSBC on the basis that it was illegal and unfair. However, the employer proceeded with a disciplinary hearing in which Buthane testified in January 2020.

At the GPSSBC hearing, evidence was led that Seloba received the charges last month after he wrote a letter to the employer for a reminder that his 60-day suspension had lapsed.

It was also heard that news of the suspension was published in the media even before the letter of intent to suspend was issued to him.

In his finding, GPSSBC panellist Christopher Manned said: "In the circumstances, the applicant (Seloba) had a courtesy to make the employer/respondent aware that the suspension lapsed as per the collective agreement.

"The employer did nothing to postpone or extend the suspension. I take it that the respondent's action was deliberate.

"The fact that the applicant was paid the salary during the time he was on suspension did not license the respondent to do as it wished."

Mathabatha's spokesperson, Kenny Mathivha, said at the time that Seloba would not be allowed to resume duties as the employer was challenging the GPSSBC order.

However, on Wednesday, Mathivha made a U-turn saying Seloba's suspension had been lifted, and confirmed that he would be allowed to resume his duties.

This was after the union threatened to approach the court to declare Mathabatha's actions unlawful.

The union on Wednesday confirmed that Seloba had been handed a letter from his employer confirming that he may resume duties.

On Thursday, it was confirmed to News24 that Seloba was indeed at work, however it is understood that he may be transferred to another division within the office of the premier. 

Read more on:    polokwane  |  politics
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