Edcon employee dismissed for calling Jacob Zuma a 'monkey' in Facebook rant
Johannesburg - A former senior Edcon employee who called former president Jacob Zuma a “monkey” in a Facebook rant three years ago has been permanently dismissed from the retail group.
The dismissal of Teresa Cantamessa, who was a specialist buyer for ladies wear, was upheld by Labour Court Judge Hamilton Cele recently.
Cantamessa’s woes began when, in December 2015, she posted on her Facebook page: “Watching Carte Blanch and listening to these f***ing stupid monkeys running our country and how everyone makes excuses for that stupid man we have to call a president... President my f***ing ass!! #zumamustfall This makes me crazy ass mad.”
The post came a few weeks before real estate agent Penny Sparrow was also embroiled in a racist rant on Facebook where she called black people “monkeys”.
Sparrow, who was found guilty of hate speech, died in July.
In Cantamessa’s case, and following a barrage of complaints on social media, Edcon initiated investigations into the matter and determined that it was necessary to haul her before a disciplinary committee.
The company accused her of making an inappropriate racial comment on the social media platform, which it said placed its reputation at risk and breached the employment trust relationship. According to Edcon, when Cantamessa published her Facebook post, her profile indicated she was employed by the company; the post was made public and was read by customers and the public at large.
It also said the post attracted negative media attention and did not conform to the values of its business.
At her internal disciplinary hearing, Cantamessa claimed her post was not racist and that she was merely highlighting incompetence.
Edcon argues that her credibility as a senior employee and from a point of common sense, Cantamessa was expected to communicate in a professional, courteous and sensitive way regardless of whether the communication took place during or after working hours.
The disciplinary hearing summarily dismissed Cantamessa, but she approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) claiming unfair dismissal.
The CCMA found Cantamessa’s dismissal was substantively unfair and awarded her maximum compensation of 12 month’s salary, as her post did not constitute racism; but Edcon subsequently escalated the matter to the Labour Court.