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Court orders bank branch manager accused of ‘shouting’ at staff be reinstated, five years after she was fired

File Photo

File Photo

Published Feb 15, 2023


Pretoria - The Labour Appeal Court in Johannesburg has ruled that a bank branch manager who was accused of shouting at staff, should be reinstated, five years after she was fired.

Zimbini Makuleni was fired in January 2018 as manager of the Centurion branch following a suspension in 2017.

She was accused of creating a hostile environment at the branch by communicating with subordinates in a manner that was disrespectful, offensive and childish.

The bank also said she shouted at her subordinates using vulgar language in front of other colleagues and customers.

“You fail to motivate your team and to value certain ideas raised by your subordinates. This has resulted with your subordinates feeling uncomfortable and worthless,” the bank said in its arguments.

The aggrieved Makuleni approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and in October 2018, it was ruled that her dismissal was unfair and that she should be reinstated.

Unhappy with the outcome, Standard Bank took that ruling on review in Johannesburg Labour Court, and in September 2021, the court ruled in its favour.

Undeterred, Makuleni approached the appeal court where her matter was heard five years after her dismissal.

During the appeal, Judge Roland Sutherland said there were no specific allegations in the charges.

He said the incidents mentioned by nine complainants were only vaguely located in time.

Meanwhile, Makuleni denied some allegations and said she had no recollection on some, but denied the spin put on them.

In his findings, Sutherland said the Labour Court misdirected itself when it accepted Makuleni’s subordinates as witnesses against her and thinking they had no motive to lie.

“A third questionable criticism of the award by the Labour Court is the notion that the commissioner examined the evidence piecemeal and failed to weigh it holistically.

Sutherland further added that Makuleni had worked for the bank for 23 years and yet, in the Labour Court, no serious weight had been given to this.

“Under her leadership, the branch was recognised as the third best-performing branch in the business... If her style of management was inconsistent with what the respondent wanted, the results certainly were what they wanted,” Sutherland added.

He also said Makuleni had been given the position because the branch needed to be fixed. Neglect and lack of discipline had set in. If her personal management style could not be changed, she should have been considered for another position where she didn't have to supervise staff.

In his ruling, Sutherland said Makuleni should report for duty within two months. He she did not have to return to Centurion as the branch manager, but could be given another position within the company.

He also ruled that Standard Bank will pay the costs for the Labour Court and Labour Appeal Court.