SABC ordered to pay up after firing sick executive

Women challenges sacking, wins big

The SABC has been ordered to pay close to R1.8-million to an employee who was fired because she was on sick leave for more than two months.

Former group executive for governance and assurance Theresa Geldenhuys was awarded millions in compensation by Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) commissioner Eric Myhill on October 29 after she challenged her dismissal.

Geldenhuys was fired last December after an incapacity hearing which had concluded she was too ill to continue working at the
SABC.

However, the CCMA has ruled the decision was irregular and procedurally unfair, arguing Geldenhuys’s submission that she was mentally fit and ready to commence duty was ignored to pave the way for her dismissal.

This was done despite her producing several medical certificates indicating she was booked off by her doctor to undergo surgery.

SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe had conceded the SABC’s decision might have been harsh, but said though Geldenhuys had produced medical certificates, she had at times lied that she was working from home.

Mxakwe said they instituted an incapacity hearing because Geldenhuys was too ill to lead the corporation’s internal controls division, a division central to his strategy to turn around the organisation. She had also failed to explain several  discrepancies in her medical certificates, saying that some days claimed as sick leave did not correspond with the SABC’s clocking system.

He said records showed that since taking over as CEO in July last year, Geldenhuys had only been to work twice in three months, and she had not attended a single executive committee meeting chaired by him.

In arguing her case, Geldenhuys said the SABC had failed to identify the nature of her illness and whether it would render her incapable
of doing her job.

Explaining her two-month absence, she said she had combined sick leave and annual leave as she had run out of sick leave days.

No questions were asked by Mxakwe, who had approved all the requests.


In his ruling Myhill said nowhere in the minutes of the incapacity hearing was it put to Geldenhuys she had failed to do any specific work. Mxakwe only emphasised her absenteeism affected her work negatively.

Myhill said the SABC and Mxakwe had failed to prove that the dismissal was procedurally and substantively fair.

The commissioner awarded Geldenhuys R1.78-million – eight months’ pay. The SABC said it is still studying the arbitration award.

By AUBREY MOTHOMBENI
mothombenia@156.38.205.90

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