Tru FM STATION MANAGER WON CASE AGAINST SABC

At least a million rand (R988 000) of the newly acquired bail-out money will be paid to an ex-employee of the SABC by order of the CCMA in the Eastern Cape.

Senior Commissioner Malusi Mbuli found the Public Broadcaster unfairly dismissed Tru FM Station Manager Thobeka Buswana late last year in October and ruled she must be compensated.

Buswana became a target for various reasons and was found guilty in a botched disciplinary hearing. Vital evidence clearing her of any misconduct were overlooked by the SABC’s internal disciplinary panel.

The CCMA strongly disagreed with the SABC’s disciplinary finding and overturned the dismissal, clearing Buswana of any wrongdoing.

Thobeka Buswana, former Tru FM Station Manager

In his arbitration award, published on 7 October 2019, Senior Commissioner Malusi Mbuli wrote:

I cannot accept the respondent’s argument that the applicant was dishonest when I compare this argument to the clear and coherent testimony of the applicant to the effect that no rule has been broken. It is not the opinion of the Senior Management or what the company thinks of what happened in relation to these incidents that should tell us whether the applicant is guilty of a transgression on a balance of probabilities, but evidence that is placed before the Commission by the applicant…”

He continued: “The employer has failed to discharge its onus in terms of section 192 of the Act in so far as the substantive issue is concerned and this means that the applicant’s dismissal was procedurally fair but substantively unfair.”

Due to the fact that Buswana’s contract expired, the CCMA was unable to order her reinstatement. Instead, compensation was ordered.

Buswana said she never had doubt the outcome at the CCMA would be different. She had faith in the CCMA and had the truth and facts on her side. Being in love with radio and her job, she would have preferred to be reinstated, but due to the SABC consistently and deliberately delaying the arbitration process, her last, one year contract expired in the course of the arbitration proceedings.

Reacting to the conduct of her superiors and the SABC during this unpleasant ordeal, Buswana said:

“I was shocked when the Acting Provincial General Manager, Mr Phumzile Mnci blatantly lied during my disciplinary hearing when he denied he approved my expenditure. We handed in documentary evidence to this effect, which clearly showed he had full knowledge of my travel, and approved it. In fact, it was approved twice by my seniors, once by him and on another occasion by his line manager. Yet the panel completely ignored this, as if they were there with a mandate and instruction to dismiss me. Fortunately Mnci was testifying under oath at the CCMA, and he knew there would have been consequences if he lied under oath, so he had to speak the truth. He told the Commissioner he approved my travel, and I attended the event with his full blessing. It’s just sad that he did not do so [speaking the truth] during the disciplinary hearing. “

She added:

‘I know for a fact that Mr Leuba Ramakgolo and Mr Mnci do not know the SABC policies, the PFMA and just the basic concept of fairness. It is such a shame to have Managers who have no clue of the guiding principles of governance leading the SABC.‘

This ruling adds to the number of cases the SABC has recently lost, at an enormous cost to the public broadcaster. It is evidence of a litigation-hungry Board and top management who recklessly spent public money in pursuit of extremely poor decisions, judgement and ill informed often questionable motives.

In as much as it is part of the duty of, for example a cameraperson to set up and focus the camera to capture high quality visuals, it is the duty of management to exercise discretion and good judgement when they institute disciplinary action and CCMA litigation against employees. When the cameraperson does not perform, there are consequences. Equally there should be consequences for poor management and decisions.

Consequence management must meet Ramakgolo and his masters, and in particular Human Resources and the legal department of the SABC, as the gatekeepers and custodians of fair disciplinary action, who instituted malicious disciplinary action against Buswana, This has resulted in fruitless and wasteful expenditure of almost a million rand.

This current management seems to be no different from the previous management, who has spent millions of rands – public money – on fruitless litigation.

Buswana was represented by the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union, BEMAWU.