SANParks makes U-turn on suspension of whistle-blower and general manager

SANParks makes U-turn on suspension
SANParks makes U-turn on suspension

SANParks management has backed down and reinstated a suspended whistle-blower after his union reported the matter to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office.

Raymond Khosa has been spearheading a campaign to end alleged racism, arbitrary torture and detention of black employees at the world-renowned Kruger National Park, mostly on baseless allegations of rhino poaching.

He was suspended on gross misconduct charges that included making allegations against SANParks and certain officials, challenging authority and being disrespectful.

Management hired Analytical Forensic Investigation Services (AFIS) six months ago to investigate the allegations. SANParks also suspended Marula regional ranger, Don English, who black rangers implicated in the abuse when they made presentations to AFIS investigator, Boyce Mkhize. English’s suspension has also been lifted.

The meeting also recommended that the Special Investigations Unit should be involved.

At the moment, no one is facing charges concerning the alleged atrocities reported at Kruger National Park.

General manager, Glenn Phillips, resigned when the investigation started.

Although personal reasons were cited for Phillips’ departure, it is wildly believed he left to avoid the process.

SANParks spokesperson, Isaac Phaahla, could not be drawn into revealing the reasons for the lifting of Khosa and English’s suspensions, and if SANParks would discipline anyone implicated in the abuse of black employees.

Read: Kruger Park ranger suspended for allegedly torturing black employees

“The decision was taken to adhere to good labour relations and governance,” said Phaahla.

“The employees are back at work while the investigation initiated by the organisations into their allegations are being finalised.”

SANParks, he said, has been consistent in explaining its wish to protect the integrity of “our own employees and the process that is underway”.

Phaahla said the matter was between the employer and employee.

“A discussion on details of what will happen when the process unfolds will certainly undermine a highly regulated process. We therefore request for the process to be respected and allowed to run to its logical conclusion,” Phaahla said.

Read: Whistle-blower who spoke out on racism at Kruger Park suspended

According to minutes of a meeting that Khosa and his union, the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers Union, held with corporate services chief director in the presidency, Mandla Feni, on December 2, it was recommended then that Khosa’s suspension be lifted.

When SANParks ignored Khosa’s requests to end the abuse of black employees, he had to report the matter to the presidency for action to be taken.

The meeting also recommended that the Special Investigations Unit should be involved.

“It is recommended that the matter be escalated to the SIU for authentication of all claims. The suspension [of Khosa] must be lifted or extended pending the proposed outcome of the investigation by the SIU and all other on-going engagements,” reads the minutes.

It seems English also benefited from the meeting’s outcome.

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