Disabled Home Affairs employee alleges bullying and assault by superior, faces disciplinary action instead

Nozipiwo Magabuko said she had reached her wits end. Picture: supplied

Nozipiwo Magabuko said she had reached her wits end. Picture: supplied

Published May 28, 2024


A Home Affairs employee in Gauteng, who was allegedly assaulted by her director and subsequently received a disciplinary notice, said she has had enough of the harassment and bullying within the department.

Nozipiwo Magabuko, 51, from Midrand is stationed as a junior administrator at the governmental department call centre in Pretoria.

Magabuko, who is wheelchair-bound and suffers from chronic hypertension, anxiety, and depression said she is not the same enthusiastic individual who started work for the department seven years ago.

In March, Magauko said all hell broke loose. She said she had been trying to to get an answer for a client via an email query.

Nozipiwo Magabuko refused to sign the disciplinary notice. Picture: Supplied

“I was looking for the information on our system and it was removed. I then took a study guide as the department system changes many times and I took the guide to give accurate information to the client.

“My director then asked why I am paging through books when I should be working. I explained to her and she asked me if I still don’t know my job after seven full years,” Magabuko explained.

She explained to her director how she needed to verify the information she was going to give the client. However, the words did not sit well with her.

“I kept on asking myself: ‘Why would she say that?’,” Magabuko said.

She recounted an incident in 2022 when she wanted to get a qualification for a course through the department but her application was rejected by the same director.

“She wanted me to only do certain modules, but how could I if it would not qualify me at the end of the day. I even asked her to reconsider her decision but she told me she pays me to sit and answer calls. I asked: ‘Is it because I am in the call centre I cannot move or go further?’ She told me to get out,” Magabuko said.

On March 18, Magabuko said she approached her director and asked whether she felt she was incompetent and whose fault that was.

“I felt so disrespected and thought about how I’d been disrespected. The following day, I approached her and wanted to speak to her. She was in her office and said she was leaving, she closed the windows and took her key. I told her I felt disrespected and her response was she would lock me in her office.

“She pulled the door closed and I pulled it back and asked her why she was doing this. As I was leaving her office she said: ‘Respect is earned,’ I responded yes, but it goes both ways regardless of positions.

“As I wheeled myself to my workspace down a broad passageway, she came and pushed me to the side. There was so much space for her to move. I asked her why she was disrespecting me,” Magabuko said.

She opted not to file a complaint with the labour relations department, believing they tended to overlook issues, but instead directed her complaint to the Director General, the human resources department, her direct supervisor, and also involved the union.

On April 9, Magabuko was slapped with a disciplinary notice, claiming she had attempted to hold her director hostage and threatened her and the department saw this as “insolvent behaviour”.

The letter (in our possession) further informed her disciplinary action will be taken against her.

“I actually laughed when this was read. I was told to sign the document and I refused to,” Magabuko said.

She said she went to her union as she had enough of the bullying and harassment by the hand of her director.

Another incident ensued when the director held a door open for a colleague. However, upon seeing Magabuko, she purportedly withdrew the gesture and allowed the magnetic door to close behind the woman.

“The door hurt my hands. That evening the pain worsened. I already have arthritis and this worsened the pain.

“I went back to work the following day as I had no sick days but I had to go to the doctor and a shop steward advised me to file an injury on duty report and file criminal charges as it was deliberate. The colleague had seen the incident play out,” Magabuko said.

She filed charges and the disrespect, stress and anxiety coming to work had her admitted due to her depression for three weeks.

“Everything makes me feel sad. I feel unsafe when I go to the office and this type of treatment has not started now it started in 2017,” Magabuko said.

The Public Service and Commercial Union said it was disgusted by this incident.

“She is now suffering depression and anxiety, unfortunately, her reports of abuse continue to be unaddressed, despite clear evidence that is recorded by CCTV cameras. This tragic story is but a tip of the iceberg about workplace bullying and/or harassment of people with disabilities. Our workplace survey has revealed a startling trend of abuse of employees with disabilities at work.

“Majority of people with disability said they had experienced being bullied, harassed or demeaned at work because of their disability or the way they learn or communicate, this trend needs to be curtailed as these workers are the most vulnerable and we call of the Department to swiftly take action against this monstrous director who doesn’t deserve to be serving the public,” PSCU said.

IOL reached out to the Department of Home Affairs. However, they did not respond to inquiries.

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