Cope's acting national treasurer Teboho Loate. Screengrab
Johannesburg – A senior employee of the Free State government has been suspended for his alleged participation and statements at a protest against President Jacob Zuma – actions his bosses deemed as “flagrant disrespect”.

Cope plans to take legal action against Free State Premier Ace Magashule’s government after its acting national treasurer, Teboho Loate, was suspended this week for “disrespectful utterances” against Zuma on April 12.

Loate is a chief director in the province’s Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation.

He was placed on immediate suspension earlier this week by his head of department, Stanley Malope, for statements he made on the National Day of Action in Pretoria.

Thousands of people, led by opposition parties and civil society organisations, had descended on the Union Buildings to demand Zuma’s resignation.

The Star is in possession of a series of communications between Loate and Malope, wherein the “flagrant disrespect” remained a point of contention.

However, Malope refused to explain what Loate had done to allegedly disrespect the president.

Loate’s saga began late last month when he received a precautionary letter, which The Star has seen, on April 24 from Malope in which he said he should explain why he should not be placed on special leave.

“I was made aware of alleged utterances by yourself on or about April 12, 2017 in which you displayed flagrant disrespect to the president it is also alleged that this behaviour will continue in the future.”

He asked for the specific circumstances under which he made the allegations and “where does the president, as the head of the executive and as a public office-bearer, feature in this intended precautionary suspension against me?”

Things came to a head on Tuesday this week when Malope refused to provide the information regarding the circumstances under which the alleged comments were made because “the allegations are subject to investigation and the information will be available once the investigation is completed”.

Loate told The Star that he believed attending the anti-Zuma march was what led to his suspension. “If you look at the date which I’m alleged to have made these comments, whatever those comments were, it is the National Day of Action I attended. But I believe that the bigger picture is my political affiliation.”

His views were echoed by Willie Madisha, the deputy president of Cope, who said he was very angry at Magashule and his government.

“We, as the Congress of the People, will take this matter up both legally and politically. I have already dispatched lawyers to attend to this matter, and I will also be raising this matter in Parliament,” Madisha told The Star.

“It is utter rubbish what Magashule and his people are doing, where they are tampering with our national treasurer’s rights.”

Loate said he worked well with Malope since his superior’s arrival in early February this year, and the relationship turned sour only after he attended the march.

Communications director for the department Tankiso Zola said the department could not comment at this stage as the matter was still under investigation.

Spokesperson for the premier’s office Tiisetso Makhele said the office was not aware of Loate’s suspension, but that they would investigate the matter.

The Star