Court dismisses application by home affairs official who 'enabled' Shepherd Bushiri to get residence permit
A senior home affairs official, suspected of irregularities in the awarding of a permanent residence permit to self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri, has failed in a bid to involve the labour court in incomplete disciplinary proceedings against him.
Ronney Marhule, chief director of permits, was placed on precautionary suspension on February 20, over allegations of misconduct related to gross dishonesty, gross negligence and non-compliance with the Immigration Act.
The allegations emanate from events related to the recommendation and approval of the application for a permanent residence permit for Bushiri and his immediate family.
The department alleges that Marhule and three other officials were the enablers and facilitators who made it possible for Bushiri to obtain a permanent residence permit.
It is further alleged that an internal investigation revealed that since March 2016, when Bushiri’s application for permanent residence was received, its approval was done without proper compliance with the department's standard operating procedures and in contravention of the Immigration Act.
The disciplinary proceedings began on March 23 and the department, through its legal representative, advised Marhule that charges against him were to be amended.
Marhule's representative, a fellow employee, objected to the department being legally represented.
On May 3, the chairperson of the disciplinary inquiry issued a ruling permitting legal representation by the parties.
Despite this ruling, Marhule went to the labour court seeking an order declaring that the parties are not entitled to legal representation in an internal disciplinary hearing instituted against him.
The court dismissed his application on Sunday evening.
Labour court judge Edwin Tlhotlhalemaje said at the core of Marhule's concerns was that by allowing legal representation at the internal hearing — contrary to the provisions of a clause of the senior management service handbook — this would unjustifiably worsen his legal bill should an adverse finding be made against him, necessitating him to approach the bargaining council should he be required to.
Tlhotlhalemaje said it was not for the labour court to micromanage internal disciplinary hearings, and dictate to employers how they should conduct their own internal processes.
“The general scheme of the [Labour Relations Act] and its dispute resolution mechanisms insulates employees from unfair conduct, including unfair procedures by employers, and clearly to the extent that an adverse finding may be made following the disciplinary hearing, substantial redress remains available in due course where a finding of unfairness is to be made.”
He said the reluctance on the part of the court to intervene in internal disciplinary processes or to micromanage these processes was based on the principle that the prerogative to discipline remained that of the employer.
He said any such undue interference by the court invariably intruded into the employer’s powers and rights to take disciplinary action.
“Furthermore, any such intrusions and interventions do not at all serve the principle of expeditious resolution of disputes and finalisation of internal processes at the workplace.”