BMF president slams judge after losing dismissal case

The president of Black Management Forum and academic Dr Sibongile Vilakazi plans to appeal a court ruling that saw her sent packing over what the judgment cited as “moonlighting” for another company while employed by Wits Business School (WBS).

Vilakazi, who was a lecturer at WBS, was dismissed in 2019. She took the institution to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for review.

However, her application was set aside by the Labour Court earlier in November.

In an interview with Sunday World recently, Vilakazi said she will be appealing the judgment, arguing that it was biased and not fairly dealt with by Sean Snyman, the judge at the Labour Court.

Biased decisions

She lambasted Snyman, stating that he was “protected because he was a judge who took biased decisions”.

“I am appealing this judgment because what I was charged with was not moonlighting. The university decided to use that clause in the policy,” said Vilakazi.

“I am disputing the interpretation that I was moonlighting.

“Typically what academics do, they get involved in other works, as it’s a normal [thing] that happens in academia.

“When I started at Wits, I was working for Alexander Forbes, where I signed a similar contract with Wits. At the time, Wits had never had a problem with that.”

She said she was not conflicted, as she was not at different places of work at the same time.

“I feel that the judge also used his own interpretation as well without considering my submissions, yet the judge said that the CCMA commissioner had ‘brilliantly written her submissions’, which I found strange and biased coming from the judge, whom I believe should have presided on the matter with accuracy and facts, not biasedness.

“This judgment also revealed that we still have a long way to go, as this has showed that there are challenges entrenched in the system which we should regard as norm.”

She said there are so many people who are going through the deep-rooted system, where they could not deal with challenges they are faced with because they do not have resources and voice to dispel these myths.

Vilakazi started working at Wits as a part-time lecturer and became a full-time academic at a later stage.

She said the judgment was based on facts that are not factual.

“Those judges are protected and they can tell you that you cannot challenge them. I feel that my rights and fair court process was overlooked,” she said.

Employment with Kantar SA

Vilakazi’s troubles started when she took up another employment with Kantar SA on full-time basis, where she had become an accounts director.

However, Wits viewed her actions as a conflict of interest and “double dipping” because she was being paid by different companies.

She brought an application to review and set aside an arbitration award of an arbitrator appointed by the CCMA to arbitrate an unfair dismissal dispute between her, WBS and the University of Witwatersrand.

Reads the judgment: “It is a review application that never had merit and should never have been brought.

“In terms of the arbitration award sought to be reviewed by the applicant, the second respondent, as the duly appointed arbitrator, determined that the dismissal of the applicant by the third respondent was substantively and procedurally fair.”

Snyman dismissed Vilakazi’s review application with costs.

The arbitration award of the second respondent (CCMA’s commissioner Madeleine Loyson), dated November 14 2019, was served on the applicant’s attorneys on November 18 2019 with Vilakazi being legally represented in the arbitration.

“Any review application must be brought within six weeks from the date the party seeking to challenge the award on review having become aware of the award.

“Using the applicable civil method of calculation, this means that the applicant’s review application had to be brought on or before 30 December 2019.

“It is true that the applicant filed her review application in the Labour Court on 27 January 2020, which is just short of a month out of time.

“The applicant was employed by the third respondent [University of Witwatersrand] in its Wits Business School section.

“Initially, she was employed as a part-time lecturer, commencing employment on 1 August 2017 in terms of what was called a 50% contract.

“The applicant was also employed at Alexander Forbes during her tenure as part-time lecturer with the third respondent.

“In terms of this 50% contract, the applicant was only required to work for the third [applicant WBS] for 20 hours per week, and her remuneration package was R360 000 per annum.”

In July 2018, Vilakazi was appointed on a full-time basis, earning R787 520 per annum.

Snyman stated in his judgment that Vilakazi’s boss, professor Paul Alagidede, came to know of her employment at Kantar about one month after she took up such employment, when someone had anonymously “snitched” on her and placed a copy of her employment contract with Kantar in Alagidede’s pigeonhole at work.

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