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Monday, 22 January 2018

The National Bargaining Council for the Sugar Manufacturing Industry & Refining Industry (NBCS) recently concluded an arbitration hearing wherein the Applicant ex-employee had been found guilty, and dismissed, for  “knowingly and deliberately placing some black, gummy substances on the door and key hole of Ms. ……….’s silver grey BMW .. and in a line on the ground”.


In so doing, it was further alleged that it was the Applicant’s intention through the practice and belief in witchcraft to cause either spiritual, mental or physical harm.


The employee had a “strained” relationship with his Human Resources Manager, and had a prior record of assault, threatening behavior and insubordination.


Evidence was led by the employer which proved that the employee, after a further altercation with a manager, he had approached the manager’s car in the car park.


The manager testified that she thereafter “had found a gummy substance on her door handle and that she had to use serviettes to remove it from her hands”.  Furthermore, “with her left hand, she opened the car door and immediately felt a slimy substance on her hand.  It felt like Vaseline but was black in colour”.


According to the witness “the substance had been smeared on the driver door handle”; she then felt “an urge in her spirit to pray”.


She then “walked towards a tap around the corner and tried to wash the substance off under running water.  All the time. She continued praying”.


A colleague had advised her to wash the door handle down with water “so as to reduce its power”.  A block of the same substance was then identified behind the front wheel of the car.


The witness continued that “she had not feel right, and believed the substance was muti.  She then consulted  sangoma or traditional healer who had informed her that he believed that the muti was “not made for good”.


The employee was a senior shop steward, and the employer argued that he was therefore entirely familiar with the rules and conduct in the workplace.


The Commissioner took a dim view of the employee’s conduct, noting that “The act of withcraft does not have to achieve its purpose .. for it to become an act of misconduct”, continuing that “the mere use of muti or traditional preparations to intimidate, scare or threaten another person is sufficient”.


It was held that the placement of the muti was intended to “attempt to psychologically exploit (the employee) and create fear and panic in her, for herself and her possessions”.


The employee’s conduct was held by the Commissioner, to have been “reprehensible, and justified summary dismissal”, adding that “This behavior amounts to serious intimidation and cannot be tolerated in the workplace”.


The dismissal of the employee was held to have been fair.




Follow Tony on Twitter at @tony_healy



First published in The Star Workplace on 20 July 2016