Bonga Majola, a senior official of the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport, has won the first round of his legal fight against his political boss, MEC Ismail Vadi, in the Johannesburg Labour Court.
Majola took Vadi to the Labour Court claiming that the decision to place him on suspension was made by his head of department, Ronald Swartz, purely due to his decision to blow the whistle on alleged acts of fraud and corruption in the department.
He said Swartz placed him on suspension after he had handed a dossier dated June 14 to Gauteng Premier David Makhura, in which he outlined how more than R26.5 million was paid out as “advanced payment” to a company called Lubbe Construction between January and April 2017.
He said Swartz was aware of the illegal transaction but did nothing.
Majola handed another dossier to Makhura, dated June 28, in which he gave substantive details about the alleged fraud.
In the June 28 dossier, Majola included a letter from Knight Piesold Consulting, an engineering firm, which corroborates his version that departmental officials had made numerous advance payments to Lubbe Construction and listed them as payments for work done, but nothing was shown for it.
Majola argued in his court papers that he was served with a notice of precautionary suspension on July 4 this year. The official notice was dated June 30, two days after he handed the dossier to Makhura.
One of the charges against Majola states: “You have consistently knowingly made false and unsubstantiated allegations and accusations against the HoD (Swartz) and other officials, thereby impugning their integrity and bringing the department into disrepute.”
Despite the charge, Swartz, who wrote the notice of suspension, said his decision to take disciplinary action was not a result of the disclosures he made to the premier.
But Majola disagreed.
“My reasonable belief was based on the facts that I had provided in the letter of disclosure. Furthermore, it was in the public interest and good governance that I made the disclosures. I did not stand to make any personal benefit, nor did I commit any offence or misconduct in the process of making the disclosures.
“Upon making the disclosures, I did not receive any allegation of improper motivation on my part. Nothing was made explicit in advance and put squarely to me by the affected parties in this regard, to whom I had circulated my memorandum,” the court papers stated.
The matter was due to be heard yesterday, but the department had failed to furnish the court with its answering affidavit.
State attorney Herminah Maponya told the court that the department was asking for more time to file its affidavit.
The court also heard that the department wanted to continue using the services of private attorneys as well as the services of senior counsel advocate Vas Soni in this matter.
Insisting on the use of private attorneys, Maponya said the department was of the view that those lawyers have extensive knowledge of the numerous cases involving it and Majola.
This was challenged by Majola’s legal counsel advocate Bart Ford, who said that if Soni was given a legal brief, he was supposed to have been in court yesterday, in accordance with Bar Council rules.
The court made a costs-order ruling against Vadi due to his department’s failure to furnish a replying affidavit. The case was postponed to September 14.