Municipal clerk still on ice after winning sexual harassment case against boss

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A municipal clerk thought her ordeal ended when she won a lengthy sexual harassment civil case against her former boss, but now she is fighting to keep her job.

Esther Mahlangu-Mathibela has not earned her salary since March from the rural Dr JS Moroka municipality in Mpumalanga after it was frozen when she was hospitalised for two months because of stress-related illnesses.

The Dr JS Moroka municipality has also charged her for absenteeism and incapacity – for which she is presently undergoing a disciplinary process.

She accuses the municipality of being vindictive after she won the civil claim against former municipal manager George Mthimunye in February last year.

Mahlangu-Mathibela spent two months in Cullinan Hospital between November last year and January this year.

On her return on January 15, she said that she was scheduled to meet then acting municipal manager, Zamani Mcineka, to be allocated duties as she had been “idling” since the sexual harassment case was concluded, but that meeting did not take place until March 7.

“When we met, Mcineka asked me for proof of my hospitalisation and I said I submitted everything to the human resources department. He said doctors’ sick notes meant nothing to him and he suspended me and froze my salary,” she said.

Mahlangu-Mathibela has been admitted to hospital again because of a stress-related condition from July 23 to August 3 while on suspension.

Mcineka declined to comment. “No, I won’t answer any questions because I’m no longer working at Dr JS Moroka municipality. I can’t speak on behalf of an institution that I’m no longer part of,” Mcineka said.

Acting Dr JS Moroka municipal manager Zitha Skhosana said: “There are a number of officials facing disciplinary action within the municipality [so] it would not be correct to single out one official and discuss her matter over the media. Also, I’m not informed of a reason why her matters of discipline are with the media.”

Mahlangu-Mathibela successfully sued Mthimunye for sexually harassing her from 1998 to 2001.

Mthimunye is politically connected and the ANC’s deployment committee recommended him to be appointed as Emalahleni municipal manager in November last year, even though he had lost the civil claim.

The SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) also raised the matter but it was ignored.

The North Gauteng High Court ordered the municipality and Mthimunye to pay Mahlangu-Mathibela’s compensation and costs after ruling that she was sexually harassed and her career growth was sabotaged when she rejected Mthimunye’s advances.

The municipality has, however, been struggling to pay her and she has been threatening to attach the council’s properties on many occasions to be paid what is due to her.

It tried to extricate itself from liability because Mthimunye was not acting in the course and scope of his duties, but the application was turned down, and the municipality has been footing the whole bill without Mthimunye’s contribution.

Mahlangu-Mathibela has so far been paid R3.2 million as compensation for her suffering. The rest of the money including her medical, senior counsel and travelling costs is still outstanding.

Dr JS Moroka mayor, Tiny Mthimunye, sought legal advice from the Nkangala district municipality about the payments and she was advised that Mthimunye should carry half the cost.

That has not happened.

Mthimunye resigned from Dr JS Moroka municipality in 2001. The late cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Sicelo Shiceka deployed him to revive the Naledi local municipality in Vryburg, North West, where he also became municipal manager until August 2010.

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