Tshwane official accused of sexual harassment loses bid to return to work
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Pretoria - The City of Tshwane senior manager accused of sexual harassment by two female colleagues has lost a court bid seeking to interdict the municipality’s disciplinary hearing against him.
The embattled official, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his alleged victims, had approached the Labour Court on an urgent basis to overturn the City’s decision to charge him with misconduct.
He also wanted the court to revoke a council resolution to place him on a three-month precautionary suspension.
In court papers, he argued that the duration of his suspension lapsed on April 22 after it was effected in January this year. However, the court found the disciplinary hearing commenced once a charge sheet had been delivered to an employee.
“At the time the charge sheet was delivered to an employee the prescribed three months had not lapsed and the suspension of the applicant did not automatically lapse,” the court said.
The court, therefore, dismissed the application after it found that the applicant had failed in his quest to seek relief sought in court papers.
In a scathing judgment on Monday, the court lamented the “tendency by senior employees seeking to avoid discipline by bringing spurious court applications”.
“Without fail, these types of applications are heavily opposed at huge costs, which more often than not dents the public purse. In order to stamp out this growing tendency, punitive measures must become commonplace in this court,” read the judgment.
The applicant was, as a result, ordered to pay the legal cost.
Contacted for comment the council official requested a meeting where he would “respond with facts” to the allegations levelled against him, and the court outcome.
Previously, he had flatly denied the allegations, saying they were part of a plot to jeopardise his good reputation built over a 20-year public service career.
He said it was a political ploy to play into the campaign to fight gender-based violence and the protection of women and children.
Chief of staff in the metro Jordan Griffiths said in terms of the municipality’s process, the suspension should have taken place for three months, subject to a disciplinary hearing.
“Disciplinary processes can be enacted within three months and thereafter the suspension is extended to allow the process to proceed unhindered because it is also an independent investigator driving the disciplinary process,” he said.
Acting city manager Mmaseabata Mutlaneng was previously authorised by council to appoint external investigators to further probe the sexual harassment complaints lodged by two female subordinates.
Griffiths said the court ruled in favour of the City when it found that due processes were followed.
“The disciplinary process will proceed in line with what the council has agreed upon,” he said.
He said the suspension had to be extended in light of the fact that the disciplinary process was enacted upon.
“When the disciplinary process occurs, the suspension will be prolonged to protect the process,” he said.
Griffiths added: “We want this matter to be resolved as speedily as possible.”
The ANC Women’s Caucus in Tshwane welcomed the judgment, saying it showed the court was “not a playground for individuals with nefarious tendencies”. “As the ANC Women’s caucus, we relentlessly campaign against anyone who seeks to undermine the struggles of women against any form of abuse,” it said.