Mkuseli Apleni. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/THE TIMES
Mkuseli Apleni. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/THE TIMES

The Saturday-shift legal dispute with trade unions has yet to be resolved, says Department of Home Affairs director-general Mkhuseli Apleni.

At his first briefing with reporters after he successfully challenged his suspension by former home affairs minister Hlengiwe Mkhize, Apleni offered little detail about the stages of the dispute that had already been argued in the Constitutional Court.

Mkhize had suspended him in September on the grounds of gross misconduct and insubordination in several matters including his insistence on fighting numerous court judgments that rejected the department’s decision to compel employees to work Saturday shifts.

In turn, Apleni said the minister got rid of him to settle legal disputes that he had been intent on fighting, while emphasising in legal papers that the minister had no authority to suspend him.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union had previously cautioned Apleni to focus on resolving the matter to restore healthy labour relations in the department.

Apleni said the matter was of central concern to the department and its officials and that they would be working on it. "The Saturday issue is something that we have been seized with," said Apleni.

Describing the environment at home affairs as "happy", he said he held no personal animosity towards Mkhize. The government’s workings required that he should be able to interact with several ministers.

"We must understand how the government operates. [The] government has got cluster systems.… If there is work that needs to be done — we are not working personally here — we are working based on the responsibilities which we have," said Apleni.

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