The Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, seems to be on a collision course with South African Airways’ (SAA) chairperson Dudu Myeni. This is after SAA seems to have defied the Public Protector by pursuing disciplinary action against individuals involved in a case brought to the Public Protector when there was an agreement to freeze the disciplinary processes.
In a statement issued today the Public Protector said numerous complaints of fraud and corruption have been brought against the South African Airways (SAA). One these complaints involve the South African Cabin Crew Association which has subsequently complained that its implicated members are being harassed through irregular disciplinary action by SAA.
Here follows the full Public Protector’s statement:
The Public Protector received numerous complaints and is currently investigating the allegations of maladministration, corruption and tender irregularities within the South African Airways (SAA).
Further to that, on the 23 July 2017, the Public Protector received another complaint from members of the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) in terms of section 8(1(a) of the Protected Disclosures Act 26 of 2000 (the PDA) alleging amongst others, victimization of SAA’s employees.
In the complaint, SACCA alleged to have submitted correspondence as evidence which were directed to SAA Executives, Board of Directors and National Treasury wherein they raised issues relating to maladministration, corruption and tender irregularities.
SACCA further submitted that SAA had allegedly charged their members in retaliation to them having made a protected disclosure. On 25 July 2017, the Public Protector requested SAA to suspend the disciplinary hearings of identified employees, pending the outcome of the preliminary investigations into the allegation of subjecting employees into occupational detriment.
Subsequent to the aforesaid letter, the Public Protector had a meeting with the SAA Chairperson, Ms Duduzile Myeni, and their Executives on 28 August 2017, wherein it was agreed in principle that the SAA will not proceed with the disciplinary proceedings against the affected employees, pending the preliminary investigation and would cooperate with the Public Protector’s investigation into aforesaid allegation of subjecting employees into occupational detriment.
On the 31st August 2017, SACCA informed the Public Protector that SAA continued with the disciplinary hearings, despite the chairperson’s undertaking to revert back to the Public Protector regarding the suspension of the disciplinary action against employees pending the finalisation of the preliminary investigation.
During the meeting, the Public Protector expressed her concern with regard to SAA using the services of the attorneys in responding to her letters despite the fact that SAA is under financial constraints and the fact that SAA has an internal legal resources to deal with matter of this nature.
If the law does not protect whistle blowers, it will be difficult for South Africa to fight fraud and corruption as employees will be afraid to speak out for fear of victimization and this will undermine the rule of law including the Office of the Public Protector, as the safe hub of the whistleblowers.