Court interdicts prison authorities

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Cape Town - The Cape Town Labour Court stopped the department of correctional services (DCS) on Friday from re-advertising the post of senior state accountant.

Christo February has brought an urgent application before Judge Robert le Grange to stop the DCS from appointing anyone until a ruling had been made in a separate action against the department for unfair discrimination.

February has successfully acted in the post of senior state accountant for a number of years, but was turned down for promotion in terms of the DCS's employment equity plan (EEP).

Earlier this week, he challenged the decision not to promote him, contending it was because he was coloured.

His lawyer submitted that February was the best qualified and experienced person to fill the vacant post, and had acted in the position several times.

February was recommended for the job because of his experience, but was turned down because his appointment would have been in conflict with the EEP.

The case is expected to start in November.

The judgment handed down on Friday in effect prevents DCS from filling the senior state accountant position until the determination of the main litigation.

Le Grange said it seemed that February may well have been discriminated against solely on the basis of his race, and not for the purpose of advancing a suitably qualified person “from a designated group, pursuant to the legitimate aims of an employment equity plan”.

He said the purpose of February's urgent application was to prevent the department filling the post before the determination of the main litigation.

“February contends that if the post were filled in the meanwhile, it would mean that, even if he were successful at trial, he could in any event not be appointed to the post because it had already been filled,” said Le Grange.

“At best, he could expect a so-called protected promotion to another post, but could not obtain the benefit of further experience gained by actually performing the work of senior state accountant.”

The judge said there was merit in February's contentions.

“In any event, if a permanent appointment is made while the main trial is pending, it would undoubtedly complicate the course of the trial litigation,” he said.

“The incumbent so appointed was likely to dispute any attempt to unseat him or her, and the dispute was likely to go to arbitration.”

This would mean that the two intimately connected matters could be proceeding in two different forums, said Le Grange. - Sapa

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