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Another CCMA Battle Set To Rock Public Protector Mkhwebane

Former chief of staff Bonginkosi Dhlamini is set to challenge his dismissal by Mkhwebane.

23/12/2016 14:53 SAST | Updated 23/12/2016 15:26 SAST
Moeletsi Mabe/Getty Images
Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane during an interview on October 08, 2016 in Pretoria. Mkhwebene was appointed by President Jacob Zuma after a public parliamentary process to choose a successor to Thuli Madonsela.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane faces more legal woes ahead as the former chief of staff Bonginkosi Dhlamini challenges the termination of his contract.

Dhlamini was shifted from his position when Mkhwebane took over and placed in the office of the CEO on a temporary basis as senior manager: strategy support.

His employment was then terminated in December and Mkhwebane offered to settle the remainder of the months on his contract.

"In December I received a message that the Public Protector would like to urgently meet with me. She said she had made a decision and my skill set as per my CV don't fit in the temporary role. She said we must part ways and I would be paid out until the end of my contract," said Dhlamini.

He said paying out the remainder of the contract would cost the organisation well over R700,000.

"She (Mkhwebane) did not check my skill set prior to appointing me in the temporary position.

The one-year contract was due to end in June 2017. Dhlamini said he argued that he was not the one who decided on the temporary position, which was now being questioned. He said he emphasised that he had applied for the position of chief of staff as that was what he was qualified to do.

"She (Mkhwebane) did not check my skill set prior to appointing me in the temporary position," he said.

Dhlamini applied for and got the chief of staff position while Thuli Madonsela was still the Public Protector but things changed when Mkhwebane took office. He applied for the position around March/April 2016 and was interviewed by a panel of five senior managers, including Madonsela and her deputy advocate Kevin Malunga.

"I was offered the position of chief of staff. There were discussions with the then PP that PPSA was offering me a one-year contract instead of the seven years as per the advert. This, was said, was to allow the incoming PP to assess my performance and then make a determination that I have met the performance goals," he said.

Dhlamini said he was offered the first contract without a clause that linked the renewal of such a contract to performance. He said that, fearing that he may be prejudiced after the expiry of the contract and not have the opportunity of it being renewed, he asked that a clause be included that would link the decision to renew to his performance.

"The PP agreed to this and the final contract covered this request," he said.

During his discussions with Mkhwebane, Dhlamini said he indicated the clause and asked what would happen with regard to the other six years. He said Mkhwebane would not concede to the matter and he challenged her to make him a settlement offer on it.

"That's when we had a huge argument and she said she would not accede to that," he said.

Dhlamini has now taken the matter to the CCMA to challenge his dismissal. He questioned how she could fire him when she had not seen his performance in the role, as was the required by his contract.

Dhlamini was replaced by customer services manager Linda Molelekoa in an acting capacity.

A source within the organisation has echoed Dhlamini's sentiments and accused Mkhwebane of not giving anyone an opportunity to prove their worth and fight for their jobs but simply pushing people out even before their contracts lapsed.

"She did not give us a chance. Just because we were close to Thuli Madonsela, we were seen as enemies. She was clearly briefed on everyone before coming to the office. We understand that every team that takes over comes with changes and new people for positions but she is doing it the wrong way. Even Madonsela changed her team but she did it in a way that did not belittle anyone. She took about four months getting to understand people's strengths before moving them around but Mkhwebane started doing so on the first day," said one source.

Dhlamini's decision follows that of former special advisor Janine Hicks, who also challenged her removal at the CCMA. Hicks' employment was terminated with three months left to go. The CCMA on Friday ruled in her favour and ordered Mkhwebane to pay her.

Attempts to get comment from the Public Protector were unsuccessful, although questions on Dhlamini's contract termination were sent on Wednesday afternoon.