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Minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele and public works minister Patricia de Lille have lost another bid to prevent suspended director-general Sam Vukela from returning to work.
In a judgment handed down on Monday afternoon, labour court judge Andre van Niekerk dismissed with costs Gungubele’s application to review and set aside an arbitration award by the General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council.
The council had ordered Gungubele and De Lille to lift Vukela's suspension after finding they had committed an unlawful labour practice by suspending him beyond the 60-day period prescribed in clause 2.7(2)(c) of the senior management service (SMS) handbook.
Gungubele, however, took the matter to the labour court, arguing that Vukela’s return would erode public trust and confidence in the state administration and cause irreparable damage to the department.
But Van Niekerk dismissed the application for review.
“The application for review is premature and stands to be dismissed. It remains for the arbitrator to determine, on the basis of evidence to be led on the merits, whether there is any substance to the applicant’s jurisdictional objections.”
Vukela has been on paid suspension for two years. He is accused of awarding irregular contracts for state funerals, including that of struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela — among other allegations.
In March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose prerogative it is to hire and fire directors-general, gave De Lille the go-ahead to take action against Vukela.
In July the same year, Vukela was placed on precautionary suspension pending the finalisation of disciplinary proceedings against him.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.