Former manager continues his fight against Sasol

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An urgent application to rescind an earlier order setting aside a subpoena of Sasol chief executive David Constable was withdrawn yesterday in the Labour Court in Johannesburg in the middle of the hearing.

Andile Maseko, a former senior manager at Sasol Infrachem, had subpoenaed Constable, three other Sasol executives and Irene Moutlana, the vice-chancellor and principal of the Vaal University of Technology (VUT).

But Judge Andre van Niekerk set aside the subpoena against Constable on January 17, following an application by Sasol’s lawyers. Maseko said he did not get the registered letter on time, notifying him of Sasol’s application because he was visiting the UK with his family.

Maseko, who is representing himself, has taken the petrochemical giant to court on the grounds that he was dismissed for his political opinion and belief six years after writing a letter, that was not about Sasol, which was published in the Sunday Times. He withdrew his urgent application against Constable after Judge Robert Lagrange pointed out to him that Sasol was his employer and not Constable.

Maseko later withdrew the subpoenas against the others. His full application and merits are to be heard in the same court tomorrow.

According to the court papers by Sasol, Maseko was a senior manager seconded from Sasol to VUT for one year. On July 8, 2009, Moutlana allegedly requested that Sasol recall Maseko due to unacceptable behaviour.

Maseko and Sasol agreed and attended a pre-dismissal arbitration with Pat Stone, a commissioner from the National Bargaining Council for the Chemical Industries.

Maseko made an application to the Labour Court for a review and the setting aside of the arbitration award. This was dismissed. Now, Maseko is basing his application on dismissal for his political opinion and belief. “Same facts, same evidence, but a new matter.”

Sishen

The Constitutional Court may have ruled that Sishen Iron Ore Company, a subsidiary of Kumba Iron Ore, is the only entity that can apply for 21.4 percent of its mining right, but the regulator says there is a chance that the right may be returned to the state.

“They [Kumba] have to go through due process. If they don’t apply within 90 days, it means that the state can do what it wants with the right,” a confident Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu said.

However, Shabangu should not hold her breath as Kumba will probably apply for the right within the allocated time frame.

In addition, a separate deal reached in November, in which Kumba will sell as much as 6.25 million tons of iron ore a year to ArcelorMittal SA on discounted terms, hinges on Kumba’s full ownership of the rights.

The court put South Africa’s most bitter battle for a mining right to bed last year, when it judged that the Sishen Mine in the Northern Cape was the only entity that could apply for the 21.4 percent mining right at the mine.

Sishen owns 78.6 percent of the mining right to the mine, and ArcelorMittal SA previously held the 21.5 percent mining right. The continent’s biggest steel producer lost the right after it failed to revert the old-order mining right into a new-order mining right before the April 30, 2009 deadline, the court found.

The Department of Mineral Resources then granted Imperial Crown Trading 289, a politically connected firm with the permit after it expired in the ownership of ArcelorMittal SA.

Those rights were revoked in favour of Kumba in 2011, a decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court.

SABC

Under the old Companies Act of 1973, businesses that found themselves in a perilous situation could apply for an intervention called judicial management.

Judicial management was a sort of “kiss of death” that damaged the credibility of a company and stripped its directors of their power, which was ultimately transferred to a judicial manager, according to a description in a newsletter published on the website of Johannesburg-based Roodt Inc attorneys.

The DA, which is itself battling a mini-crisis, has proposed that Yunus Carrim, the Minister of Communications, implement “some sort of management rescue such as judicial management”, at the SABC. Never mind that the new Companies Act of 2008 had effectively done away with judicial management and replaced it with the more sympathetic business rescue process that has been a popular route for distressed businesses.

Yesterday, a concerning report tabled before the National Assembly’s communications committee on the poor state of skills at the SABC, drove Marian Shinn, the shadow communications minister for the DA, to call on Carrim to take “drastic steps to arrest the failures at the public broadcaster”.

Not only does the resignation of its chief executive Lulama Mokhobo leave the broadcaster without a chief executive, it means that the entire executive management is staffed by people in acting positions. Mokhobo departs the organisation at the end of the month under a mutually agreed separation. Mokhobo has served two years of her five-year contract.

Shinn said a skills audit, at the portfolio committee’s insistence, by PwC showed that the SABC lacked the appropriate skills level to transition to digital migration by the deadline in June next year.

A finding is that 60 percent of the executive and senior managers do not meet the minimum strategic thinking skills for executives. Apparently only 15 percent demonstrated marginal competence in strategic thinking.

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Wiseman Khuzwayo, Dineo Faku and Asha Speckman.


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