Efforts by business to protect and make reparations to whistleblowers are up for the count as the Labour Court last week ruled that the Deputy Director General in the Department of Labour and Public Administration Colette Clark had been unfairly dismissed by Public Service and Administration Minister Noxolo Kiviet last month.
The court decision comes on the heels of the launch of an anti-corruption working guide for South African companies launched with much gravitas by eminent civil society groups in an event where Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, as the main speaker highlighted the need for the protection of whistleblowers and appealed for a fund to help give incentives.
This is as another case is pending before the courts of the unceremonious dismissal of the Director General in the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) Kgathatso Tlhakudi who too is challenging his dismissal.
Clark, who joined the department in 2014 as public service and administration department's deputy director general of research and analysis was suspended in 2020 amid allegations Colette Clark, successfully litigated against her the department, who were ordered to reinstate her following her August 6 illegal axing.
Clark was blamed for the “Department’s incompetence”. The judgment was delivered in Johannesburg last Tuesday.
Clark was initially suspended after she submitted a whistle-blower report on alleged corruption and mismanagement, with no action taken.
Clark has not been available for comment on the next step of the legal process against the employer.
“It is now common cause that the Protected Disclosures Act of 2000 does not provide the necessary assurances to encourage whistleblowing. It is painfully illustrated that the few who are courageous enough to blow the whistle on corrupt practices in their organisations do so at great personal cost,” said Professor Morris Mthombeni, the Dean at the Gordon Institute of Business Studies (GIBS), in the guidelines that business is hammering out.
Mthombeni noted that Corporate South Africa had been found wanting in its lack of support for whistleblowers, calling upon business leaders to strengthen the whistleblower regime - especially through the funding of civil society organisations that do an exceptional job of fighting corruption, with whistleblowers acting as crucial partners.
Corporate business including the Centre for Business Ethics at the GIBS, Business Leadership South Africa and Business Unity South Africa, Business for South Africa, amongst others, have cited the “the imperative for collective action” that should begin with the creation of a safe environment for whistleblowers in South Africa.
Zondo last month emphasised to business to establish a fund to protect and incentivise whilstleblowers, pledging to contribute from his own finances if the fund comes to fruition.
“If such a fund came to be established and contributions are required, I would make a contribution from my own resources. The fund would take care of the difficulties whistleblowers face. Some of them were dismissed from their work, others found difficulty in finding employment because companies fear that they would do the same in their employ. We should start with those we already know of who have come forward, some of them to the state capture commission,” he said.
He also called for a standing permanent commission that would publicly call into account politicians and bureaucrats so the entire nation would know there was accountability as the state capture years had shown Parliament's inadequacy in exercising oversight.