The General Public Service Sectoral Bargaining Council (GPSSC) has ordered the reinstatement of Limpopo government spokesperson Phuti Seloba after it found that his suspension was illegal and unfair.
The GPSSC ordered that Seloba be allowed to resume his duties on Monday, and that he be paid an equivalent of four months' salary as compensation.
Seloba received the suspension letter on November 6, 2019 following allegations that he had been divulging sensitive information to EFF provincial chairperson Jossey Buthane since 2017.
Buthane posted the allegations on a social media platform late last year, leading to Seloba's suspension.
Among the allegations was that Seloba told Buthane that Premier Stan Mathabatha sometimes missed appointments and meetings, including those for which accommodation had been booked, because of alcohol consumption.
Buthane further said Seloba had told him that the premier went on an international trip with a bodyguard and, when he boarded the connecting flight, the bodyguard was nowhere to be seen.
"He told me the premier was not allowed to travel with bodyguards on international trips, as the privilege was provided by the host countries. That constituted wasteful expenditure," Buthane said at the time.
Seloba was then suspended, which he later challenged in the GPSSC on the basis that it was illegal and unfair. However, the employer proceeded with the disciplinary hearing in which Buthane testified in January this year.
The outcome of the hearing is still awaited.
'We don't think it's the right time'
At the GPSSC hearing, evidence was led that Seloba received the charges last month after he wrote a letter to the employer for a reminder that his 60-day suspension had lapsed.
It was also heard that the suspension was published in the media, even before the letter of intent to suspend was issued to him.
The National Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) also wrote a letter to the employer about the suspension.
The employer, represented by Martin Shirindza, did not oppose the application by Seloba, suffice to say that he was suspended with all the benefits associated with his position as chief director.
In his finding, GPSSC panellist Christopher Manned said: "In the circumstances, the applicant (Seloba) had a courtesy to make the employer/respondent aware that the suspension lapsed a per the collective agreement.
"The employer did nothing to postpone or to extend the suspension. I take it that the respondent's action was deliberate.
"The fact that the applicant was paid the salary during the time he was on suspension did not license the respondent to do as it wished."
However, Mathabatha's spokesperson Kenny Mathivha told News24 that Seloba would not be allowed to return to work because "we don't think it is the right time for him to resume duties".
"The employer is challenging the award on the basis that it has nothing to do with the main charges of which the decision is still awaited.
"His right and the rights of the employer are nothing different before the eyes of the law," Mathivha said.
Nehawu branch chairperson Norman Mavhunga said the Limpopo government had accepted it acted illegally by failing to oppose the application against suspension at GPSSC.
"We believe its challenge of the award will not succeed," Mavhunga said.