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IEC losses court challenge against its employee


Mohloai Mpesi

In a significant turn of events, the Labour Court has nullified the dismissal of Tuoe Hantši, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Independent Elections Commission (IEC).

Hantši was relieved of his duties on August 11, 2023, a decision that has now been reversed by the court.

The ruling, delivered by Deputy President of the Labour Court yesterday, Makoanyane Keta, comes in the wake of a disciplinary hearing held in June this year.

During the hearing, Hantši was initially denied legal representation, only being granted it midway through the hearing. Dissatisfied with the course of events, he promptly sought intervention from the courts.

An order was issued on August 2, 2023, granting him the right to be represented by a legal practitioner “of his own choice in the ongoing disciplinary hearing”.

Despite this, the hearing proceeded and ultimately resulted in Hantši’s dismissal.

Keta’s ruling mandates that the disciplinary hearing recommence from the beginning. He further declared all decisions arising from the prior hearing null and void.

“It is the court’s finding that the disciplinary hearing that led to the applicant’s dismissal is null and void. Any decision taken in pursuance of the disciplinary hearing is of no force and effect. The respondent (IEC) is ordered to start the disciplinary hearing de novo, allowing legal representation,” stated Keta.

The jurisdiction of the Labour Court was called into question during the proceedings, with the IEC arguing that the matter was now moot since Hantši was no longer in their employ.

Keta clarified that jurisdiction is contingent on the unique circumstances of each case.

“In the present matter, the issue is the interpretation of the court order that was issued on August 1, 2023, and forms the facts. It is common cause that there is an ambiguity in the order.”

He indicated that the IEC interpreted the initial order to mean that legal representation should be allowed midstream.

“On the other hand, the applicant was of the view that the matter should start de novo. Section 24.2 (k) of the Labour Code Amendment Act 2003 gives the court the power to vary its own judgments,” he said.

He said in the present matter, the court was tasked with the issue of solving the ambiguity in the initial order they made that the hearing should start from the beginning to grant a fair hearing.

“The interpretation of the court’s judgment should have a purpose and meaning,” Keta explained.

He concluded that the court’s jurisdiction was not limited to matters of unfair dismissal, but extended to rectifying instances where court orders were improperly implemented.

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