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Top cop in 'blue lights' tender was unfairly dismissed, R300k compensation ordered

But she will not be reinstated or re-employed

11 February 2022 - 08:00
The SAPS has been ordered to pay former deputy national commissioner for human resource management Lt-Gen Bonang Mgwenya more than R300,000 by February 28.
The SAPS has been ordered to pay former deputy national commissioner for human resource management Lt-Gen Bonang Mgwenya more than R300,000 by February 28.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo/Sunday Times

The SAPS has been ordered to pay former deputy national commissioner for human resource management Lt-Gen Bonang Mgwenya more than R300,000 by February 28 after her “substantively and procedurally unfair” dismissal in 2020.  

The order was made by the safety and security sectoral bargaining council (SSSBC) in a 74-page arbitration award this week.  

Mgwenya contested her suspension after her arrest on corruption, fraud and money laundering charges relating to a multimillion rand tender for emergency equipment.

The charges relate to a R191m tender in which Vimpie Manthata’s company, Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement, received a contract for the installation of “blue lights” on police cars between March 1 2016 and March 31 2017.  

Mgwenya and 12 others are accused of colluding to ensure that Manthata's company was awarded the contract to fit 1,550 police vehicles with blue lights at grossly-inflated prices.

Soon after the contract was awarded, a payment of R440,000 was made towards the purchase of Mgwema’s BMW X5. 

However, she denied knowledge of the payment. She failed to declare that to her employer, according to one of the witnesses.

“The applicant’s 2017/2018 form does not disclose any financial interest or gift except that she had acquired a BMW X5. According to the witness, she was required to disclose the money received in regard to the payment of the BMW X5.”  

Mgwenya admitted during the course of internal investigations to be romantically involved with Mathata. She, however, maintained there was "nothing she had done for [the company] to necessitate such gratification. If [the company] had paid R2m for an Aston Martin it would have been because of the intimate relationship they had”.

Unlike her co-accused, Mgwema said she was not afforded an opportunity to present her defence and several attempts to do so were ignored. This was unreasonable, the council found.

”Though the applicant was a senior person and cable of presenting her defence in these circumstances, the employer was not sufficiently reasonable and I have been persuaded that it was willing to allow this process in accordance with natural justice,” said panel commissioner Trevor Dennis Wilkes.

Mgwenya disputed allegations of gratification and the authenticity of evidence her employer relied upon, later culminating in her suspension.  

The council said she should have been treated with more respect.

“Her evidence that she was qualified, the dignity of the applicant, being in the position that she occupied, together with the unchallenged fact of her contribution to the organisation for several years with no record of any misconduct at the least required she be treated with more respect by her superior in the form of a reasonable opportunity to answer the allegation.”   

The council had to decide whether the dismissal was procedurally and substantively fair and, if not, what appropriate relief was to be awarded to Mgwenya. It ruled against Mgwenya’s reinstatement, but ordered she be compensated for three months.

“However, a finding that there has been substantive unfairness does not necessarily mean that the applicant should be returned to work. 

“In particular the breach of the rules, which has been proven, amount to serious misconduct [and] it follows that the respondent’s relationship of trust would have been irretrievably damaged.  

“The remedy of reinstatement is not fair and equitable, but rather three months compensation calculated as being R328,963,” said Wilkes. 

The council ruled that it was "artificial" for Mgwenya to argue she would be happy to return to an employer "who has treated her so harshly". 

"The respondent has established dishonesty and this on its own precludes trust and erodes tolerability. For all these reasons it will not be reasonable to order reinstatement or reemployment."

TimesLIVE


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