The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) has held in abeyance a case against the SABC’s Jimi Matthews after the public broadcaster agreed to set a date for a grievance procedure and possible disciplinary process involving the head of news to be heard. The Media Online reports.
The CCMA application was the result of an incident that took place during the State of the Nation Address in Cape Town in February. Matthews stands accused of assaulting a female member of the outside broadcast crew assigned to covering SONA2015.
The woman, a member of the Media Workers Association of South Africa (Mwasa), filed assault charges against Matthews and laid a grievance with the SABC’s human resources department. The SABC, in response, said the staffer lodged her grievance “a few hours after the said employee was told of her impending disciplinary action against her”. In an email, the public broadcaster said that in order to “avoid confusion” its case against her should “receive attention first”.
“To this effect, your grievance will only be actioned when the corrective action is finalised,” the SABC wrote.
General secretary of Mwasa, Tuwani Gumani, rejected the SABC’s claims out of hand, saying they were “retaliatory”. “If the SABC wanted to deal with a complaint over performance or misconduct, they should do so irrespective of her grievance. These are two separate issues,” he told The Media Online.
Mwasa pressed ahead with its charges, filing a complaint with the CCMA that said she was “victimised, harassed and assaulted verbally, physically and psychologically by a male executive manager following a technical glitch beyond her control or that of the crew she supervised”. The incident took place when South Africa’s security services jammed the live feed from parliament’s cameras to broadcasters and media in general. Matthews was, at the time, unaware of state interference in the signal, and allegedly attacked the woman as a result.
The CCMA was due to hear the application on Monday, but Mwasa, in a statement, said, “The parties agreed that our CCMA application may be held in abeyance pending the set down and conclusion of a Grievance Procedure and possible Disciplinary Process against your Jimi Matthews pertaining to the claims of assault during the February 2015 SONA in Cape Town”.
Gumani said the CCMA Settlement Agreement “provides that the Grievance Procedure (applied for at least on 13 and 19 February 2015) will finally be set-down before the 15 April 2015”.
But he accused the SABC of “systemic abuse of managerial privilege, of executive right and of delegated authority”. He said while the union didn’t have a “vendetta” against Matthews, he was disturbed that there were no consequences for the “connected some”.
“We are also appalled and concerned by just how deep in the pocket the “recognised unions/our organized labour/business partners” are at the SABC,” Gumani said. “Just like the rampant abuse of women at the SABC, the notion that the unions are ‘kept’ is an open secret and like most of the abused women, most leaders of the sad unions have stoically suffered the enduring stigma of carnal transactional liaisons of various kinds”.
Gumani said SABC workers were “daily sold on a platter and are forced to accept less than fair settlements of grievance and disciplinary processes”, adding that one of the reasons the public broadcaster was in a state of “perpetual turmoil” was the “deeply divided and compromised workforce”.
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