Suspended Public Enterprises DG Tlhakudi dealt big court blow

Suspended Public Enterprises director-general (DG) Kgothatso Tlhakudi on Wednesday lost his bid to resume his duties after the Labour Court ruled that his application was not urgent.

Tlhakudi had dragged President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and the chairperson of his disciplinary hearing Rathaga Ramawele to court in a bid to return to work.

His argument was that his suspension had lapsed and must therefore be allowed to go back to work. However, judge Andre van Niekerk ruled the matter was not urgent and dismissed it with costs.

“The applicant has clearly not sought to protect his interests with the degree of urgency that he might have displayed,” reads the judgment.

“It was only on 22 September 2022 that the applicant’s attorneys raised with the state attorney the issue of the lapsing of his suspension and enquired about his return to work. The applicant has not satisfactorily explained why he took no steps between 22 August 2022 and 22 September 2022, when he addressed the letter to the state attorney enquiring about his return to work.”

The judgment further shows the deteriorated relationship between Tlhakudi and his political principal, Gordhan. Gordhan sought costs on a punitive scale against Tlhakudi. Tlhakudi, in his application, had made several allegations against the minister.

He accused the minister of having participated in his suspension because he feared he would expose his wrongdoings within the department.

“He is so brazenly intent to destroy the applicant’s [Tlhakudi] career.” read Tlhakudi’s papers in part.

He further said his unhappiness about how the business rescue of SAA, and the decision to sell a majority stake in the airline to Takatso had unfolded, played a part in his suspension.

The judge, however, seemed unmoved by Tlhakudi’s submissions.

“The applicant has acted in a manner unbefitting the seniority of his position and has sought to use the platform established by the application to raise matters in respect of the department that are not relevant to the relief he seeks, which in turn has necessitated the respondents having to deal with irrelevant factual matters.

“The applicant’s attack, particularly that on minister Gordhan, by and large comprises strong and unsubstantiated allegations. For example, the applicant adverse that minister Gordhan is brazenly intent to destroy his career, that he is abusing his powers, and that he was acting in a fraudulent and corrupt manner,” reads the judgment.

Timeline of events:

  • May 25: Gobodo Forensic and Investigative Accounting issues a report on a case of alleged corruption against Tlhakudi, finding that Tlhakudi had interfered in the appointment of a senior manager in the security and facilities department. The report recommends that a disciplinary action be constituted against him.
  • June 6: Gordhan informs Tlhakudi that the Gobodo report was [presented to him and he has forwarded it to the Presidency.
  • June 14: Ramaphosa’s office informs Tlhakudi that the president had delegated Lamola to deal with the matter.
  • June 23: Lamola informs Tlhakudi he is suspended.
  • August 12: Lamola sent Tlhakudi a charge sheet.
  • August 22: A hearing is convened, however, the proceedings do not progress beyond discussions on exchange of documents.
  • October 11: Tlhakudi’s urgent application to resume work is heard.
  • October 12: The judgment is delivered.

Tlhakudi’s lawyer MacGregor Kufa said they will appeal the judgment, as they believe it contained many flaws.

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