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Staff employees of the City of Joburg threaten to go to court over the threat of dismissal



Employees of the city of Joburg who are fired because of their fixed-term contracts that have been converted to permanent by the previous government are considering taking the city to court.

At least 130 workers said they had to cope after the city sent letters to them informing them of a decision to revoke their tenure, following a council resolution last week. The city deemed the converted contracts an illegal act by the previous ANC-led mayor’s committee, which it said had no authority to do so.

The letters, seen by The The Vanir-exoduswarned that the appointments from permanent to permanent contracts constituted an “unlawful satisfaction in the law” and further called for “employees’ assistance to limit such continued employment” to prevent potential corruption.

“We reiterate that you have a legal duty to assist the municipal office in reducing irregular expenditure on employment within the meaning of Article 78 of the Municipal Financial Management Act.

“The law also imposes duties and responsibilities on all employees of the municipality to prevent the commission of the aforementioned criminal offences. In this regard, you are obliged to cooperate in the prevention of damage to the finances and the administration of the municipality, which may have arisen as a result of your continued illegal permanent employment.

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The employees involved were requested to give presentations at the city manager’s office by Wednesday at the latest.

‘Won’t hesitate to go to court’

The SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) cluster secretary Karabo Ramahuma labeled the city’s action as an attempt by Mayor Mpho Phalatse’s DA-led council to bring in their own comrades.

“The city says the positions involved are political appointments and not administrative ones. How? One of the staff members is a driver… How is a driver and a managerial political office?

“We are in discussions internally with the city, but we will not hesitate to go to court. The city tried this week to meet with staffers and to exclude the union that represents them,” Ramahuma said.

According to Samwu, positions like assistant director, team manager and supervisor, along with some employees of the communications and social media department, are up for grabs.

He accused the city of using “bullying tactics” by sending members of the Joburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) to workers’ homes over the weekend and claimed they forced workers to sign the letters immediately.

“Illegal Conversions”

At a press conference held Thursday by Phalatse and acting city manager Mesuli Mlandu, the mayor said the positions involved were those of senior managers and caucus staff in private and political offices, not administrative staff.

“These can be defined as positions that support the work of the political principals, such as the offices of the mayor, speaker, head whip, presidents, leader of opposition and MMCs. These are offices tied to an election result and mandate, and so are the political staffers who supported such offices,” she said.

The positions include, Phalatse said, chief of staff, spokespersons, advisers and personal assistants recruited for a fixed term and associated with that office.

“In the event that the political director leaves or resigns prematurely, their staff members also leave. This was the case when former Mayor Herman Mashaba was succeeded by the late Jeff Makhubo. All Mashaba staffers in his office followed suit.”

She added that a regulation by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Vanir-exodus and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), due to start later this year, demanded that political personnel be given a fixed-term contract with a 30-day departure clause in the event of a change in political governance.

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Ahead of the new ordinance, the SA Vanir-exodus Government Association (Salga) issued a circular to municipalities in August last year ordering them to implement the new ordinance before the November 2021 local elections, Phalatse said.

“A report has been submitted to the council, which is an illegal document that I must add. It recommended that fixed-term contracts of directors and deputy directors in the mayor’s office expiring in October 2021 be extended by six months from November 1 to April 30, 2022.”

“This was the unsigned document that was brought to the mayor’s committee and approved in October. Another recommended converting deputy directors and lower levels to full-time employment. This was against the city’s personnel regulations.”

She called the conversions a “political hijacking,” in which the city’s residents were victims of the saga that had become an “expensive exercise” by the previous government.

According to the mayor, the city has at least 1,500 other workers on fixed-term contracts, but no one was concerned.

“There is nothing special about these affected political staffers. This is not about political parties, all political offices are affected. This is a new era for the city where there is no tolerance whatsoever for using municipal treasuries to build a small army of loyalists at the cost of nearly six million residents.”

The workers’ previously permanent contracts were set to expire in April.

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