Caption: National Minister for the Department of Public Works, Thulas Nxesi in Durban yesterday. Picture: Colleen Dardagan

Johannesburg - Noloyiso Ntwana tried to take Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi to court to block him from prosecuting her for spending more than R60 million to renovate government ministers’ homes.

When that failed, Ntwana booked herself into a private hospital on the eve of the hearing.

But that didn’t deter the presiding officer, advocate Lesego Montsho SC, from continuing with the disciplinary hearing.

Montsho demanded a clear explanation for her absence, including a medical certificate.

When her second bid failed, Ntwana applied for a stay of prosecution, which also failed.

All these were part of Ntwana’s effort to secure her well-paying job in the department.

The renovations of the seven ministerial homes were done in 2009.

Ntwana was charged only last year following a long investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), after a request by Nxesi in 2011.

The initial trial was scheduled to commence on August 5 last year, but both the department and Ntwana agreed to postpone the case until September 2 to 6.

Montsho agreed to the postponement to allow the parties to prepare legal arguments after Ntwana had earlier indicated there was no legal basis to prosecute her.

On September 2, Ntwana absented herself due to ill-health, and the matter was postponed to September 23.

In her legal argument for the dropping of charges against her, she submitted: “It was only the General Public Service Sectoral Bargaining Council (the GPSSBC) that is empowered to resolve, through conciliation and arbitration, disputes in terms of the Labour Relations Act, No 66 of 1995 (as amended), which deals with disputes related to unfair dismissals, unfair labour practices, etc.”

It was then that the hearing heard that Ntwana had referred the matter to the GPSSBC and the matter was still pending.

She further argued that the allegations arose in 2009, but the charges were brought only in July 2013 – a period of four years – arguing that it was unfair to answer to allegations dating back that long.

Ntwana also said the former minister, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, was aware of the allegations against her but had chosen not to charge her.

Ntwana said Nxesi did not consider the misconduct and had no grounds to charge her.

The State opposed her arguments, saying that to discipline an employee was not an unfair labour practice. It further argued that disciplinary action can be stopped only if directed so by the Labour Court.

The State also said Ntwana was not employed by a particular minister but the department. It further said the delay was due to a lengthy investigation by the SIU, saying “preventing the department from prosecuting allegations against an employee would allow such employee to profit from her wrongdoing”.

Montsho endorsed the State’s view.

In her ruling, she said “the referral of the matter to the GPSSBC was an ill-conceived step which is not justified in terms of the applicable dispute resolution mechanisms (provided by the Labour Relations Act)”.

The matter was again postponed to November, but the matter had to be postponed again because Ntwana failed to provide the State with all paginated lever arch files.

Montsho then also noted that it was “a calculated attempt to forestall the hearing”.

Ntwana then terminated the services of her lawyer on November 28 and the case was postponed to January 13.

A new lawyer appeared and immediately asked for a postponement, arguing that Ntwana was admitted to hospital a day before her appearance. The matter was then postponed to February 3.

Attempts by the new lawyer, a Mr Kela, to stall the process ended with Ntwana deciding not to continue with the internal hearing.

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The Star