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R1.5 million lawsuit against CTICC ’might become precedent case’

Makgosi Letimile. Picture: Supplied

Makgosi Letimile. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 20, 2022

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THE story of wheelchair-bound sex columnist Makgosi Letimile, 37, from Woodstock, has not only changed the view of a disabled person in the workplace but may also become a precedent case in the court of law.

Letimile made headlines in November when she decided to take her former employer the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) to the Labour Court, suing it for more than R1.5 million.

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Letimile became wheelchair-bound in 2016 after contracting TB meningitis.

After two years of job hunting, she was employed as a food and beverage administrator at the CTICC in 2019 as part of a targeted recruitment drive for disabled people.

Letimile became wheelchair-bound in 2016 after contracting TB meningitis. Picture: Supplied

According to court papers submitted to the Labour Court, she worked at the CTICC for at least 20 months before being involved in a retrenchment process in early 2021, which resulted in her automatic unfair dismissal in April 2021.

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This resulted in Letimile taking the partly City-owned company to the Labour Court, on claims of being discriminated against while employed at the CTICC.

According to the court documents, the CTICC discriminated against Letimile on the prohibited grounds of her disability and/or the intersectional grounds of her disability, race and gender, her automatically unfair dismissal for operational reasons, and the violation of her constitutionally enshrined, fundamental human rights to dignity, bodily and psychological integrity, freedom of expression and freedom of association.

Tzvi Brivik, the director of Malcolm Lyons and Brivik, who is representing Letimile, said a detailed statement of the case has been filed.

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body.copy...: “However, the City of Cape Town has filed an exception,” Brivik said.

An exception is raised if either one of the parties believes that a claim which is made is not sustainable in law.

Brivik further explained: “In this case, the City of Cape Town disputes our client’s reliance on the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution to workplace-related redress for damages.

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“The City of Cape Town is alleging that the Section 23 constitutional right to fair labour practice has since been incorporated or given life to in various other subsidiary legislation, including the Labour Relations Act, Employment Equity Act and the Code of Good Practice on Employment of Persons with Disability.”

Brivik said the City’s exception was aimed at limiting or reducing the amount of compensation to which Letimile would be entitled, should she be successful in proving the allegations of discrimination against her on the various grounds set out in the statement of case, which included direct and indirect discrimination, based on her disability, gender and race.

“The exception will be argued in the Labour Court in Cape Town and may end up for determination in the highest court.

“The City still haven’t filed their statement of defence or plea, which sets out the factual allegations and we are still waiting on a date for the case,” he said.

CTICC spokesperson Driaan Jordaan confirmed to Weekend Argus that the company had filed an exception in 2021.

“This has subsequently been set down for hearing in the Labour Court. Miss Letimile has not opposed the exception.

“Once the exception has been dealt with by the court, both parties will have an opportunity to finalise their pleadings,” Jordaan said.

Brivik added that the case may also well turn out to be a case study, because of arguments raised by CIty of Cape Town.

“It is an important point of law and it does need to be determined and a definitive judgment will certainly set precedent going forward,” he said.

Letimile’s attorney, Hayley Galgut of Malcolm Lyons and Brivik, added that it would also be the first of its kind to be presided over in the Labour Court.

“Here the fairness selection process will be considered when considering disability in retrenchment and employment, which can result in the case becoming a precedent case,” Galgut said.

Letimile told Weekend Argus that this had been her fight since the beginning.

“I don’t just want to be known as the woman who is in a wheelchair that sued the CTICC for R1.5 million. I also wanted to make people take on disabled peoples’ rights with more seriousness.

“And even though I am unemployed and barely holding on, I have my friends who have my back, so no, I have no regrets in making the decision to sue, because now people are going to know that we are also human and we also have rights,” she said.

The document further claimed that the CTICC warned that the article breached its code of good conduct, social media and moonlighting policy.

The Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) has come under fire after Letimile’s story broke. Picture: Ross Jansen

“To bring someone or a company into disrepute you need to say something maliciously damaging about the person to the company.

“All Letimile did was stress an opinion about a sex toy, she said nothing about the company.

“So one can understand why she is saying she was discriminated against because of her disability.”

Barros concluded: “In this country there are no real cases to look back to in regards of disabled people and or disabled people being prejudiced by action of people in their workplace.

“It is quite clear that the country, has a very progressive law of equality and disability, but the application of the rights is far-fetched by employers.”

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