Legal action will be taken against Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams if she does not reinstate a member of the SA Post Office board who was fired on Friday for allegedly accusing her of abusing her powers.
Colleen Makhubele was axed from her post after her colleague wrote to the minister complaining about the “undermining” statements that were being made against her (minister) by Makhubele during a meeting that was held on September 29 between the board and Communications Workers Union (CWU).
Independent Media’s special investigation unit, which has access to the recording of the meeting on which the minister based her decision, heard how Makhubele had voiced her concern over a lack of support from the minister, issues within the Post Office board and that of specific turnaround initiatives which she was not in favour of.
During the meeting, Makhubele argued that over the past few weeks something had happened that had strained the Post Office’s relationships with different unions and had even reached the point where board members were threatening each other because of dishonesty and not acting in the best interest of the entity.
When Makhubele tried to raise more concerns about the minister, who was not supportive, she was heavily interrupted by the Post Office’s acting chairperson Catharina van der Sandt, who did not want her to continue speaking on the matter and who rather suggested that a “caucus” be arranged. Makhubele said: “Please don’t stop me from raising these issues.
“These are important things to raise. Acting chair, you do not even know where I am going with my points, so please do not stop me,” she told Van der Sandt.
“This is not a board meeting; this is a meeting with the unions. This is also not a caucus and we do not need one (caucus) to raise these issues.”
CWU President Clyde Mervin, in the recording with other union members, argued that there was nothing wrong with raising these issues of concern and pointed out his disappointment with the Post Office board over how they wanted certain issues to be dealt with, including that of salaries.
“We are not in politics now. If the truth needs to go through to the minister, let it be known here too,” Mervin could be heard saying when Van der Sandt and other board members tried stopping Makhubele from speaking.
He further argued that the Post Office was not playing its part in sorting several matters and was on “autopilot”.
However, by October 6, Van der Sandt had already written a letter to the minister to complain about the special board meeting (SGM), which was specifically arranged to discuss a proposed motion to remove Makhubele.
Makhubele, whose lawyers sent letters to the board and to the minister had on Thursday, a day before the SGM, informed them that she would not attend the meeting due to the way the SGM was being conducted and pointed out several rules of the Companies Act over the process of removing members. Victor Nkhwashu Attorneys explained that they were also in the possession of several letters pertaining to the removal of their client (Makhubele).
“You have furnished our client with a notice for the SGM requesting her to prepare representations to the board and in the presence of the minister to justify her retention as a non-executive director of the board … The SGM is not the correct platform for what our client is called to do by the minister and obliquely by the board. The board and minister’s reliance on the contemplated sections of legislation, with respect, is spurious and incorrect,” the lawyers’ letter stated.
Makhubele believes that her removal stems from issues that she has been trying to raise since her appointment. The minister was threatened in August with legal action after she had asked Makhubele to step down already for accusing her of misconduct and over a dispute relating to a Covid-19 relief package deal between Postbank and Blue label Telecoms.
The minister’s spokesperson Mish Molakeng said: “Following deliberations in a SGM of the shareholders, it was resolved that Makhubele be removed … The decision was taken after the meeting heard from all board members regarding the conduct of Makhubele. The matters disclosed by the board are confidential, but we can confirm that they were serious and concerning.
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