A former administrator says he is owed more than R500 000 that the party deducted from his salary.
The EFF is embroiled in a wage dispute with one of its former administrators, who has now dragged the party to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for unfair dismissal.
Frans James, a former EFF administrator in the Free State provincial legislature, claims that he was dismissed after demanding to be paid back more than R500 000 in deductions made by the party since September 2016, when he was employed by the red berets.
James said that, as a member of the EFF support staff at the provincial legislature, he earned R34 500 a month, including benefits.
He claimed that the EFF only paid him R20 000 of that amount and that, after tax, he took home only R17 186. This means the EFF deducted R14 500 every month for the three years he was employed by the party. He also claimed that the party withheld his bonuses that were due in January, his birthday month.
“The EFF took 50% of the salaries and benefits of all staff members. This led to many staff members going into financial ruin, with some going into debt administration and others suffering health breakdowns.”
James said the salary included benefits such as a housing allowance, medical aid and provident fund. He claimed that his predecessor never had such deductions.
“I don’t care much about the job. I want my money. But also I want to expose the hypocrisy of these people who are masquerading as the vanguard of the working class. I know that they are saying I will never get my money because they are going to frustrate me until I don’t have a cent left to mount a legal battle,” he said.
James was suspended in October for posting on his Facebook page that “political parties and trade unions are the worst employers. You are an employee or a volunteer when it suits them.”
The disciplinary hearing was supposed to be in November, but this did not happen because the party’s representative arrived two hours late. The next correspondence James received was a dismissal letter.
“There was no hearing. Instead, I received a backdated dismissal letter from the human resources manager Nomhle Ngcobo,” he said.
In the letter, dated December 12, the party said he was being dismissed for “gross misconduct involving negative social media remarks that bring disrepute to the EFF”.
“You will receive your December salary and no further payments. I do confirm that company property has been received in the form of a cellphone. Should more be recoverable, the EFF will not hesitate to pay you a visit with the intention to recover the same, forcefully,” part of the letter read.
James said he only received the letter on December 23 and he decided to approach the CCMA. The matter is due to be heard on January 17.
He claimed that he was not the only EFF employee to approach the party regarding the deductions. He said that, initially, some EFF members in the Free State wrote to party deputy president Floyd Shivambu to raise their concerns.
He said he decided to fight his own battles when they were ignored, and sent a further complaint to the party’s leadership. But he said his pleas fell on deaf ears.
“My contention was why was this only applied to the Free State legislature staff and not with other provinces? And why was the leadership not leading by example by also taking salary cuts?”
James said he was told that then party treasurer-general Leigh-Ann Mathys was refusing to budge, saying that their salaries were “too much”. James said he was also informed that he should just let the matter go.
“The then deputy secretary-general Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi refused to intervene, and apparently said she doesn’t want to upset the commander in chief, Julius Malema,” he said.
James said that, throughout his battle with the party, former secretary-general Godrich Gardee went to great lengths to “victimise” and “frustrate” him.
“Immediately after raising my discontent, I faced a backlash from Godrich, Mandisa Makesini [the then provincial secretary, who is now the provincial chairperson] and Ngcobo,” James said.
He accused Gardee of insulting him and attempting to intimidate him after he came to James’ home and “literally dragged me off my bed” ahead of last year’s national general elections.
“He [Gardee] would call me names in front of everyone until I stopped attending meetings where he was present. I was gatvol and very close to smashing his face,” he said.
James claimed that Gardee would call him in the early hours and swear at him, demanding the elections reports.
He also alleged that Ngcobo flew in from Johannesburg to persuade him to negotiate a settlement with the party.
But he claimed he was told that the party’s leadership, notably Gardee and Makesini, no longer wanted to work with him.
James alleged that he was offered two-and-half months’ salary to walk away, but he rejected the offer.
“The two [Gardee and Makesini] had been telling all and sundry, even before I was charged, that they no longer wanted me in the office and they were going to make sure that the EFF threw me on to the street. I have witnesses who can testify to this,” James said.
Gardee told City Press that he was not competent to deal with matters that arose “in my tenure as secretary-general”.
“Please respect that this particular matter has been referred to the CCMA by the ex-employee and the rule of sub judice applies,” Gardee said.
This is not the first time the party has been accused by its employees of unlawful salary deductions.
After the 2016 local elections, the party suspended its Mpumalanga secretary after he refused to pay the mandatory party levy to help sustain the EFF financially.
Malema also announced that councillors had to hand over half of their salaries for three months to recover money spent during elections.
Political journalist | City Press
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