South Africa probably has among the most complicated systems in the world to protect employees against unfair dismissal. But an easier method of getting rid of unwanted employees is being promoted by the very government that introduced that system. This is to offer them “golden handshakes” of undisclosed sums, which the discarded employees generally clasp with alacrity and disappear, often for reasons unknown, to enjoy the fruits of their gratuities in quiet retirement. The SA Police Service, the SA Revenue Service, the National Prosecuting Authority and Eskom have been among the latest state institutions to adopt this strategy. But recent history has produced further examples too numerous to cite. The run-up to the handshakes generally follows the same procedure.
Extracts from John Grogan’s editorial in the latest issue of Employment Law (2015) June published by LexisNexis [subscription required]
The result of all this is that obvious questions remain unanswered. Were the charges trumped up because persons in higher positions wanted the targeted officials out of the way? Were the golden handshakes paid to prevent them from saying awkward things in their disciplinary hearings or, perhaps in court later? Or were the targeted officials induced to leave so that they could be replaced with others currently favoured in higher places and who may in turn leave with their own golden handshakes when they fall out of favour? Since the departed officials’ silence has been bought, the answers to these questions may never be known. But what is known is that taxpayers’ money has been spent for purposes unfathomable to all but those who decided to blow it in this manner. The trouble with this spendthrift approach to solving personnel problems is that these amicable comings and goings might ultimately kill the goose that lays the golden eggs from which they are financed.