Without legal aid or support from a union representative convicted drug dealer Sheryl Cwele has turned to studying labour law books to enable her to challenge her dismissal from her post as health services director at the Hibiscus Coast municipality.
The embattled former wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele was fired in October last year because her employment contract stipulated that being found guilty of a criminal offence – which in the view of the municipality had an impact on her position – constituted misconduct.
Cwele, a mother of four, received a net salary of R29 000.
Following her dismissal no settlement was paid to her.
Cwele told The Mercury that conciliation and arbitration hearings had been postponed twice this year because the municipality’s lawyer did not arrive on both occasions. The next arbitration hearing has been set down for May 9.
The Mercury understands that union representatives and municipal employees do not want to be associated with Cwele because of her high-profile drug case. As a result Cwele has no support or witnesses to testify on her behalf.
“I have started the process of appealing against my dismissal. So I am reading law books to prepare for the case,” she said.
Cwele and her co-accused Frank Nabolisa, were found to have recruited South Coast women as drug mules to smuggle in drugs from South American countries and were sentenced in May last year to 12 years’ imprisonment each.
Both have been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.
After her conviction on drug-dealing charges, the municipality suspended Cwele from her job and a decision was taken to hold a disciplinary hearing.
The council also resolved to suspend her salary, but she successfully challenged the municipality in the Labour Court and her pay was reinstated.
Cwele also appealed against the council’s decision to dismiss her.
The municipality then constituted an appeal tribunal, chaired by Brian Denny of Norton Rose SA.The tribunal upheld her dismissal.
It is understood that Cwele was challenging her dismissal on grounds that the charges of misconduct were based on her criminal conviction by the Pietermaritzburg High Court in May 2011.
“My contention is that since that conviction is under scrutiny by the Supreme Court of Appeal, it is inequitable and improper to act on it until a final word is pronounced by the Supreme Court of Appeal,” she said at the time when she was challenging the suspension of her salary.
Municipal manager Sbu Mkhize confirmed that Cwele was challenging her dismissal.
“There is such a claim and our legal team is working on it,” he said.
Cwele’s attorney, Mvuseni Ngubane, said he was not involved in her dismissal case but was only representing her in the criminal appeal matter.
Ngubane said Cwele’s 500-page appeal application had been filed in Bloemfontein and he was waiting for a trial date to be announced. - The Mercury