It is not only British judges who fall asleep on the bench while they are supposed to be performing important judicial functions.     In that recent criminal trial the proceedings were abandoned due to the gross irregularity.   Recently the labour court reviewed and set aside a purported award by an arbiter who “appeared drowsy and at times fell fast asleep during the course of the arbitration proceedings.”   Despite the serious nature of the allegation neither the arbiter nor the bargaining council responded nor denied it and the labour court accepted it to be true and serious.     After considering whether to send the matter back to the bargaining council the labour court decided against doing that and in effect found that the reason for dismissal was fair.

One is reminded of the lyrics of the great melody “Raindrops keep falling on my head” written by Bacharach, Burt / David, Hal and which was the theme song for the 1969 film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Read more: Bj Thomas – Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head Lyrics | MetroLyrics

“So I just did me some talkin’ to the sun
And I said, I didn’t like
The way he got things done

Sleepin’ on the job
Those raindrops are fallin’
On my head, they keep fallin’”

Excerpts from the judgment of in Value Logistics (Personnel) Services (Pty) Ltd v Letsoalo (JR2055/2012) [2014] ZALCJHB 264 (18 July 2014) per GA Fourie AJ.

[16] The employer further alleges in the review papers that the arbitrator appeared drowsy and at times fell fast asleep during the course of the arbitration proceedings.   This serious allegation was made under oath by the employer’s representative and two witnesses, all of whom were present at the arbitration.   The employee dismissed these allegations as ‘scandalous’.   Neither the arbitrator nor the bargaining council saw fit to file a response to these serious allegations.

[17] It goes without saying that a party in compulsory statutory arbitration proceedings can expect, at minimum, for an arbitrator to be alert and awake during the proceedings.   An allegation under oath that an arbitrator was sleeping during the proceedings is extremely serious, as it indicates misconduct of a fundamental nature by an arbitrator and one would expect that it would prompt a response under oath from the arbitrator and an investigation and response by the bargaining council.   None was forthcoming from either the arbitrator or the council.   In the absence of any such response, I accept the allegations.   This finding alone renders the entire award liable to be set aside on review.

[18] It follows that the award is reviewable in its entirety.   I now turn to consider whether to refer the rescission application back to the Bargaining Council for hearing afresh or to substitute the award.   In Southern Sun Hotel Interests (Pty) Ltd v CCMA and Others (2010) 31 ILJ 452 (LC) at para 33  [Note: also reported at [2009 ] 11 BLLR 1128 (LC)] van Niekerk J explained the correct approach to this issue as follows:

‘The LAC and this court have held that they should correct a decision rather than refer it back to the CCMA for a hearing de novo in the following circumstances:

(i)   where the end result is a foregone conclusion and it would merely be a waste of time to order the CCMA to reconsider the matter;

(ii)  where a further delay would cause unjustified prejudice to the parties;

(iii)  where the CCMA has exhibited such bias or incompetence that it would be unfair to require the applicant to submit to the same jurisdiction again; or

(iv) where the court is in as good a position as the CCMA to make the decision itself.’

[19] In my view, the factors in (ii), (iii) and (iv) are present in this matter.   A comprehensive transcript has been placed before the Court, in which the issues were fully ventilated and I exercise my discretion in favour of determining the matter instead of referring it back to the bargaining council for determination afresh.