Eskom whistle-blower returns to CCMA, again
Suzanne Daniels says her dismissal was linked to her revelations at the inquiry into allegations of state capture at Eskom, and is claiming for unfair labour practices
The former head of legal and compliance at Eskom Suzanne Daniels plans to tell the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) that she was dismissed for blowing the whistle on state capture when she challenges her removal on Wednesday.
Daniels was "summarily dismissed" in July following the recommendations by an independent disciplinary inquiry, which found her guilty of "serious misconduct". She was found guilty on four charges: disclosing confidential information belonging to Eskom; her involvement in the McKinsey and Trillian transactions; her involvement in the Tegeta transactions; and her involvement in the parliamentary inquiry into the SABC, which called then Eskom chair Ben Ngubane to testify on his tenure at the public broadcaster.
However, Daniels believes her removal is directly linked to her revelations before the parliamentary inquiry into allegations of state capture at Eskom — for which she received public praise at the time. As a result, Daniels says she is protected by the Protected Disclosures Act (PDA) — which aims to protect whistle-blowers who reveal information to bodies or persons, such as the executive arm of the state, the public protector, the auditor-general, or another body or person, if the employee believes they cannot approach their employer.
"I am a whistle-blower," said Daniels, adding that she was dismissed because "Eskom disputes that my whistle-blowing was, in fact, whistle-blowing." In her plea explanation to the CCMA, Daniels states Eskom wanted to know why she believed her revelations should be considered "protected disclosures", given that much of the wrongdoing at the power utility was already public knowledge before she addressed lawmakers.
Daniels further alleges Eskom wanted to remove her as it had already replaced her with two people irregularly employed to the legal department. "Unlawful and irregular behaviour persists within the company without consideration for due process," reads her plea explanation.
But Eskom says Daniels is yet to be replaced as vacancies are not filled while an employee is on suspension. To assist with the workload in the legal department, "Eskom enlisted fixed contract employees through the normal process of engaging short-term contractors," the power utility said in response to questions from Business Day.
Daniels had previously been suspended, but in March, the CCMA ordered Eskom to reinstate her and give her five months’ pay "for the unfair suspension". However, Daniels is asking the CCMA only for compensation for being subjected to what she claims are unfair labour practices, saying, "My view is that the relationship between my employer and myself has deteriorated to such an extent that I could not ask for reinstatement."