Zitumane suspension saga: CCMA ruling to be reviewed, says Amatola

Vuyo Zitumane
Vuyo Zitumane
Image: FILE

A ruling by the CCMA that Amathole Water Board chairperson Vuyo Zitumane was suspended unfairly will be reviewed because it is “fundamentally flawed, based on a third party, the minister, who is not party to the employer-employee dispute”, according to the Amatola Water Board acting CEO Boniswa Hele.

Hele said the investigations against Zitumane have been finalised, and the charges against her were “many and very serious”.

“An arbitration that throws a case based on a third party, the minister, is counter-intuitive and can only be viewed as a targeted judgment on the person of the minister (Lindiwe Sisulu).”

On Tuesday the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) declared that Zitumane's suspension on April 28 was unfair because it was on the behest of Sisulu.

Zitumane was suspended amid the department's allegations against her that included maladministration at Amathole Water.

Two weeks later Zitumane took the decision to suspend her to the CCMA. This week the CCMA ruled that Zitumane should be reinstated and should continue her work from Monday, August 17.

The CCMA also instructed the department to pay her R736,000, which includes an annual bonus of R161,000. At the time of the suspension Zitumane believed she was targeted because she refused to break the supply chain regulations, despite an alleged pressure from Sisulu and her advisers.

The CCMA ruling states that there was no basis in law on which the minister can dictate on the board which attorneys should represent the employer at the arbitration, and that litigation concerning the employee will be centralised to the minister's office.

Hele, in a media briefing on Saturday, said the CCMA's ruling was submitted to the board's legal team to advise accordingly. She said Zitumane was put on precautionary suspension with full pay, and the board “acted on its capacity as the board of Amatola Water”.

“It will be premature to divulge the advice at this stage. We want to make it categorically clear that we will be taking the CCMA arbitration outcome on review.

“Even if for some inconceivable reason the minister had somehow instructed the board to suspend the CEO, the arbitration would still need to be based on whether the board as the employer (and not the minister) acted fairly in suspending its employee, based on the merits of suspension, and there is no need for the minister to be party to the judgment or even be mentioned,” said Hele.

She added: “This CCMA outcome does not stand even the most basic legal scrutiny.

“The matter of precautionary suspension is neither a vindictive nor a punitive action against the employee.”

She said Zitumane was not expected to be back at work unless she has been given a chance to answer the charges put against her.

“It is understandable and imaginable that this can cause a lot of uneasiness, especially to stakeholders, as it has the ability to create panic and uncertainty with regard to Amatola Water operations. The legal feud has no potential of causing disruptions in the provision of services by Amatola Water, and this institution is sensitive to the importance of water in fighting the pandemic and beyond this era.” — DispatchLIVE


Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.