Employee dismissed from Public Protector's office not paid 'a cent of R1.5m' owed after CCMA ruling

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Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
PHOTO: Deaan Vivier
  • Sphelo Hamilton Samuel, who was dismissed by suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, alleges the office hasn't 'paid a cent' of the R1.5 million backpay as per a CCMA ruling.
  • Samuel told News24 he was not paid his September salary despite returning to work on 4 July.
  • The Public Protector's Office has applied for a review of the CCMA ruling. 

Former Free State provincial head Sphelo Hamilton Samuel says the Office of the Public Protector has not paid him "a cent of the R1.5 million" in backpay owed to him in terms of a CCMA ruling, after his dismissal in 2020. 

Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane had fired him after he wrote to Parliament to request an investigation into her conduct and financial mismanagement at the Chapter 9 institution. 

Samuel was reinstated on 4 July.

Samuel told News24 this week that he was not paid his September salary and had received letters instructing him not to report for duty. 

He said:

The back payment was supposed to be made by the end of July, but they did not [pay]. They wrote to me saying I must not come to the office because my presence in the office is confusing for the staff because they appointed someone else after they dismissed me.

News24 reported that the CCMA ruled in favour of Samuel in June and had found that while his dismissal was procedurally correct, it was unfair. 

Samuel said about two weeks before receiving his August salary, the office issued him a letter informing him of its intention to apply for a review of the CCMA ruling. 

He attributed his non-payment for September to his refusal to vacate his office. He also claimed that for the three months he reported for duty, he was not provided with work equipment.

READ | Public Protector ordered to pay R1.5m to official who was dismissed for calling for probe into Mkhwebane

"I arrived every morning from 08:00 to 16:00 or whenever they close. I would sit in the boardroom and had colleagues come in and ask me for advice about investigations they are working on," he said. 

Samuel said his refusal to vacate the office not only cost him his September salary, but he was also threatened with an arrest and accused of trespassing. 

Samuel added: 

Today (Monday), they decided to call the police on me. They said I was trespassing. The police came, and I showed them the award and said to them this was a civil case and that I had committed no crime. If they don't want me there, they cannot call the SAPS. They must go to the High Court or the Labour Court and get an order staying the award.

Samuel said the police called off the arrest and he remained in the office until the end of his work day.

Samuel wrote to the acting public protector to enquire about his salary and to inform her of the latest developments.

"She responded but did not commit. She said this was the first time hearing I had not been paid. She copied the senior manager in HR and the CEO and the acting senior manager in legal services," said Samuel.

Spokesperson for the Office of Public Protector Oupa Segalwe confirmed Samuel's claim about the institution's intention to review the CCMA's arbitration award.

He said Samuel's lawyers were aware of the intention to apply for the review to oppose his reinstatement.

"Mr Samuel's lawyers served our office with a notice of intention to oppose on 16 August 2022, which shows that they are fully aware of the review application and the relief therein claimed," said Segalwe, adding that in terms of labour legislation, the arbitration award was suspended, pending the final determination of the review application.

Segalwe did not respond to claims about the PPSA allegedly calling the police on Samuel and its attempt to lay criminal charges against him.

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