The National Health Education and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) in Limpopo has accused Premier Stan Mathabatha of undue influence in the dismissal of provincial government spokesperson Phuti Seloba.
Union secretary, Jacob Adams, said in a statement that Mathabatha pressured the chairperson of the disciplinary hearing, Viceroy Maoka, to issue a verdict a day after the extension of the Covid-19 lockdown.
"Maoka complied with the premier's instruction and forwarded it to parties cited in an email which, as a union, we are privy to, and thus a demand was put for them (Seloba and his legal counsel) to mitigate, despite knowledge of a persisting lockdown throughout the country," Adams said.
He claimed that the premier ensured that one of the officials in his office, Emmanuel Mudau, pressured Seloba, by allowing him to deliver a document to his house during lockdown that notified him and his attorneys to submit mitigating factors.
Seloba was later dismissed without having submitted mitigating factors, despite the notification that he could not access his attorneys during the lockdown.
"In our view, there was nothing urgent to warrant the visit to Mr Seloba by Mr Mudau during lockdown, as whatever outstanding issue could have been dealt with when the lockdown was over," Adams said.
He further accused the premier of "protecting" his personal spokesperson, Kenny Mathivha, who was found guilty of fraud, following a disciplinary hearing, for inflating his travel allowance.
However, Mathivha, speaking on behalf of the premier, refuted allegations that the premier had undue influence in Seloba's dismissal.
He described the allegations as "a means to bribe the opinion of the public".
"The lockdown has nothing to do with him failing to submit mitigating factors. The chairperson detailed, step by step in his finding, how he went about notifying them to submit mitigating factors," Mathivha said.
"The premier doesn't even know the chairperson (of the disciplinary hearing). This (the hearing) was an administrative process," he said.
He also said he was seeking legal advice in his personal capacity on the allegation that the premier protected him in his fraud matter.
Seloba was found guilty and dismissed, following allegations that he told EFF provincial leader Jossey Buthane that the premier missed important meetings because of excessive alcohol consumption, among other issues.
In his finding, which News24 has seen, Maoka also based his verdict on a State Security Agency (SSA) report submitted by director general, Nape Nchabeleng, which showed Seloba had refused to be vetted.
Nchabeleng submitted that the lack of Seloba's vetting by the SSA posed a risk to the government because he was allowed to sit in executive meetings. He said Seloba refused to be vetted since he was still employed by the provincial Department of Health.
Seloba was appointed head of government communications in 2013.
Commenting on this, Mathivha told News24: "It's a standard procedure that all senior management team members be vetted."
"This is one of the things that the provincial government is pursuing as to how he was appointed without vetting. It was like allowing a rat to be head of a cheese factory," Mathivha said.
But Seloba said he was not found guilty of a charge relating to a refusal to be vetted by the SSA.
"The SSA should have come and testify and be cross-examined at the hearing. I was not found guilty on that charge, so why does it become a motivation for sanction? The whole process was contaminated," Seloba said.
He said he would respond fully to the issue once he was officially served with a letter terminating his contract.