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Axed prison warders await appeal fate

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A group of seven prison warders from Kimberley are waiting to hear their fate after their unfair dismissal case was appealed to the General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council by the PSA and Popcru.

The Tswelopele Correctional Centre in Kimberley. File picture

A GROUP of seven prison warders from Kimberley are waiting to hear their fate after their unfair dismissal case was appealed to the General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council (GPSSBC) by the Public Servants Association (PSA) and the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru).

Six of the seven warders are PSA members, while the seventh belongs to Popcru. The outcome of the appeal is expected in February next year.

This is after 13 prison warders belonging to the PSA and Popcru reportedly found themselves at loggerheads with their area commissioner and accused him of sexual harassment, intimidation and victimisation.

The union members, who were accused of ill-discipline and intimidation, have also accused their employer of a smear campaign after they became “whistle-blowers”.

They accused the area commissioner of being “power-hungry” and “untouchable”.

According to the union members, they were labelled as bad apples and transferred from their workplace to another facility.

After objecting to being transferred, they were charged and had to attend a disciplinary hearing, which they felt was unfair.

They claimed that during the disciplinary hearing, they asked to be excused in order to caucus and were told upon their return to the hearing that they were dismissed.

Of the union members who attended the disciplinary hearing, two were members of Popcru while the rest were PSA members.

One of the two Popcru members was dismissed while the other received a written warning.

Popcru spokesperson Boitumelo Phelehu said the union members were accused of walking out of the disciplinary hearing and were therefore dismissed.

The PSA provincial manager, Steve Ledibane, said the members have had “issues” with the area commissioner dating back to the Covid-19 period.

“It started during the Covid-19 period when he addressed them without a mask,” said Ledibande. “Our shop stewards raised issues and from there the victimisation started.

“They were then transferred from one correctional facility to another. Some charges were just added and this led to their dismissal.

“The PSA represented them through Russle Bindeman at the disciplinary hearing. The report I heard, is that the chairperson decided to dismiss them when they requested an adjournment during the hearing.

“An appeal was made. Unfortunately, the employer sustained the dismissal.

“The PSA has declared a case of unfair dismissal. The case will sit in February 2024.”

The union members also opened a civil case of intimidation and sexual harassment against the area commissioner in September, but it was regarded as a labour matter.

The members claimed that they were intimidated after the area commissioner showed up at court surrounded by armed Correctional Services members who allegedly acted as his “bodyguards”.

Numerous attempts to get comment from the Department of Correctional Services and the Tswelopele Correctional Centre in Kimberley have been unsuccessful.

The area commissioner apparently arrived at the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court surrounded by armed unit members who allegedly acted as his “bodyguards”. Picture: Supplied
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