Sowetan

‘Okay to call my boss the k-word’

SARS TURNS TO CONCOURT TO AFFIRM DISMISSAL OF RACIST EX-EMPLOYEE

- Loyiso Sidimba sidimbal@sowetan.co.za

A FORMER SA Revenue Services official claims the taxman should not have fired him for using the k-word towards his black boss because there was no breakdown of relationsh­ip as a result of his utterances.

JJ Kruger, a former Sars antismuggl­ing officer based at OR Tambo Internatio­nal Airport, went on a racist outburst telling his boss Abel Mboweni in August 2007 that “a ka***r must not tell me what to do”.

Kruger’s papers were filed in the Constituti­onal Court in May. Mboweni, a long-time Sars employee, is now a specialist tax advisor.

At the disciplina­ry hearing, Kruger blamed stress for his outbursts but failed to provide evidence of stress.

The hearing found Kruger guilty and handed him a final written warning valid for six months, a 10-day suspension without pay and a requiremen­t that he submit himself to counsellin­g. In October 2007, then Sars boss Pravin Gordhan substitute­d a disciplina­ry hearing’s sanction and fired Kruger.

Sars said that it substitute­d the sanction because Kruger’s conduct was destructiv­e of the relationsh­ip of trust and confidence between an employee and a public service employer under a constituti­onal democracy. “[Sars] found his continued employment intolerabl­e,” the taxman insists. But Kruger wants his job back and claims Sars should not have fired him because, despite his racism, there was no evidence his relationsh­ip with Sars and Mboweni had irretrieva­bly broken down.

“There was no evidence of the irretrieva­ble breakdown of the relationsh­ip. Not even from Mboweni against whom the misconduct was perpetrate­d,” Kruger said in papers filed in the Constituti­onal Court.

According to Sars, racist, derogatory and abusive conduct by a subordinat­e such as Kruger towards his black supervisor was insulting and an egregious form of misconduct.

Kruger took the matter to the Commission for Conciliati­on, Mediation and Arbitratio­n (CCMA) which in March 2008 found that his dismissal by Sars was unfair and reinstated him because a collective agreement signed between the taxman and worker representa­tives prohibits overruling of sanctions.

At the CCMA, Kruger denied using the k-word against his boss.

Later, in September 2009, the Labour Court found that collective agreement was silent on substituti­on and therefore it was not allowed and also told Sars to review the disciplina­ry hearing’s sanction.

Last December, the Labour Court of Appeal also found that Sars did not have the power to substitute sanctions by the dispute resolver.

The matter will be heard in the Constituti­onal Court next month.

 ?? PHOTO: ALON SKUY ?? CONUNDRUM: Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was at the helm of Sars in 2007 when a white employee called his black boss by the k-word. The employee is now appealing his dismissal
PHOTO: ALON SKUY CONUNDRUM: Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was at the helm of Sars in 2007 when a white employee called his black boss by the k-word. The employee is now appealing his dismissal

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