Former manager demands R541m from MTN after retrenchment

MTN is facing a R541m lawsuit by a former senior employee. Picture: Timothy Bernard/Independent Newspapers

MTN is facing a R541m lawsuit by a former senior employee. Picture: Timothy Bernard/Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 30, 2024


A FORMER senior manager at MTN is demanding more than R541 million from Africa’s largest mobile network operator, after he was retrenched.

Dr Ernest Ketcha Ngassam, who held the position of general manager: information security architecture and technical excellence, instituted his legal action against MTN, seeking damages for the termination of his employment under section 189 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA).

According to Ngassam, the South Gauteng High Court has concurrent jurisdiction in respect of employment-related disputes and the Labour Court does not have exclusive jurisdiction.

“This means that the high court’s jurisdiction should not be ousted simply because a dispute falls within the overall sphere of employment disputes,” he explained.

Ngassam is challenging the lawfulness of the termination of his employment contract and the alleged infringement of the LRA.

He also has a contractual claim for the enforcement of his rights that does not emanate from the LRA.

MTN, through its board of directors, negligently failed to comply with the provision of section 76 of the Companies Act, 2008, which simply states that the company should through its board act in good faith and for proper purpose, in the interest of both him and the firm, with the degree of care, skill and diligence that may reasonably be expected of a person who carries out the same functions as a director.

In addition, he expected MTN’s board of directors to comprise individuals who have knowledge, skill and experience and act with utmost care to ensure the reasonable safeguards of his interests and fundamental rights during consultation process, in terms of the LRA.

Ngassam’s contractual claim for enforcement of his employment contract is that his contract was unlawfully terminated under the ruse of retrenchment and does not only emanate from the LRA, but also from the operation of parts of the Companies Act, which were intended to create procedural legal obligations on MTN.

He said MTN was required to act both procedurally and substantively fairly, observing the duties to act with honesty and utmost care when deciding to disclose relevant information in the instances of consultation process, as envisaged by the LRA.

Ngassam instituted his lawsuit in February 2022 and MTN is fighting the matter and has stated that his case is “vague and embarrassing”.

Earlier this month, Acting Judge JJ Meiring declared one of the documents filed by Ngassam an irregular step and set it aside.

”What is more, it would redound to the prejudice of the court that would waste time and resources dealing with a document upon which the plaintiff (Ngassam) will no doubt rely but that largely speaks to irrelevant matters,” the acting judge explained.

Ngassam did not respond to requests for comment sent via e-mail.