JOHANNESBURG - Andile Mngxitama's Black First Land First (BLF) movement on Monday marched to the headquarters of FNB in a bid to petition the bank to reinstate four employees who were dismissed for discussing politics in their work social media and professional email platforms.
About 100 BLF members gathered at Gandhi Square in the Johannesburg CBD on Monday under the watchful eye of police to march to FNB Bank City following a failed meeting with FNB chief executive, Jacques Celliers.
Last month, Siphesihle Jele, Simon Masimula, Sipho Coke and Xolani Nkosi, were fired for "political talk and using insulting language" after the bank monitored their business e-mails and WhatsApp group conversations for several months last year. They were employed as premium bankers at FNB in Inanda, Sandton.
The former employees believe that they were unfairly dismissed by the company for exercising their right to freedom of expression and their right to privacy. BLF general secretary Thandiswa Yaphi accused Celliers of not respecting black people and of being a "regime change agent", saying that the axed employees were fired for raising transformation issues within the bank.
Yaphi said the BLF had been having interactions with the four former employees of FNB and had found a lawyer for them to take their battle with the bank to court.
"We are going back there today because we see that Celliers does not respect black people. And we know that Celliers endorses a coup against President [Jacob] Zuma and he is a regime change agent because we know that he has funded Save SA because he wanted to remove the president of South Africa who was elected lawfully," Yaphi said.
"We are saying that FNB and all the banking sector must be transformed because [blacks] are the majority. We don't want to hold positions, we want to own banks, we want the banks to be under government." BLF wrote a letter to Celliers two weeks ago asking for an urgent meeting that week in a bid to find a solution to the four axed employees.
But the party was met with private security and a heavy police presence when it marched to the bank that week and was told that Celliers was not at the head office.
It was not immediately clear if the BLF succeeded in meeting Celliers during its Monday protest. FNB declined to comment on specifics relating to the dismissal of the employees, saying that it was unable to engage third parties regarding this matter due to the "confidential nature of internal processes".
"The bank further confirms that this matter followed a thorough and rigorous internal disciplinary and CCMA process which was concluded nearly a year ago. This process is confidential, to protect the rights of both the bank and the individuals involved," FNB said in an emailed response. "FNB reiterates that it respects every employee’s constitutional right to privacy and freedom of association, and has firmly refuted the allegation of intercepting private communication."
- African News Agency