Minister of Human Settlements, Mmamoloko Kubayi, has been denied leave to appeal a Labour Court ruling that she must reinstate a deputy director, Nelly Letsholonyane. Letsholonyane was dismissed after the Minister was stuck in a lift for over an hour. The judge concluded that there was no prospect of success on appeal and criticized the minister for granting herself unauthorized powers as reported by Ground Up.
Undeterred, Minister Kubayi plans to petition the Labour Appeal Court to reconsider the matter. GroundUp previously reported on the judgment, where Acting Judge Molatelo Makhura declared the minister’s firing of Letsholonyane as “unlawful.”
The incident in question occurred on 14 March 2023, and the following day, Letsholonyane was presented with a letter of intention to face disciplinary proceedings for alleged “gross negligence” and “threatening the lives of employees.”
Letsholonyane was given three options: dismissal, a disciplinary hearing, or early retirement, and she reluctantly chose the latter. However, in April, she was abruptly dismissed.
Judge Makhura noted that the minister failed to adhere to the procedures outlined in the Senior Management Service Handbook, which requires a disciplinary hearing to be conducted.
As a result of the ruling, Letsholonyane was ordered to be reinstated immediately.
Minister Kubayi sought leave to appeal, but Acting Judge Makhura has deemed her chances of success unlikely. The minister raised six points, five challenging the ruling that the dismissal was unlawful.
Among the arguments, the minister claimed there was no requirement in the Senior Management Service (SMS) Handbook for a formal disciplinary hearing and that Letsholonyane’s representations were part of the disciplinary process. Judge Makhura dismissed these arguments, stating they were based on a fundamental misconception.
He clarified that the power to dismiss rested with the chairperson of the disciplinary hearing, and the minister overstepped her authority by acting as a complainant, initiator, and chairperson.
The judge ordered the minister to cover the costs of the application for leave to appeal.
Since the dismissal of the application, Letsholonyane has remained at home without pay, facing financial strain to sustain the legal battle. She reported no contact from the department during this time.
Minister Kubayi’s spokesperson, Nozipho Zulu, said they would petition the Labour Appeal Court while considering the matter sub judice.
Previously, the minister denied that Letsholonyane was dismissed solely due to the lift incident, claiming additional misconduct charges. However, the Public Servants Association contradicted this statement in their own opinion.
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Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA