“All the Christians and people subscribing to the Christian faith and religion believe that God calls his servants to the ministry and that those who fail to heed His call will suffer the same fate as Jonah did.   The commissioner said that what was good for the gender (sic) must be good for the goose also.   The third respondent believed that she was called by the ancestors to become a sangoma.   Evidence was led that she should have died if she had continued to work and disregarded her calling”.

On 1 October 2010 Francis J is reported to have delivered this judgment in the Labour Court – see Kievits Kroon Country Estate (Pty) Ltd v CCMA unreported case JR1856/08.

These are extracts from the entertaining judgment !   Needless to state, the Labour Court refused the employer’s application to review and set aside the award and upheld the employee’s reinstatement.

Facts and alleged transgressions

“3.        The third respondent was employed by the applicant on 21 June 1999.   She was promoted to the rank of chef de partie with effect from 1 March 2005.   She sought permission from the applicant to be granted a month’s unpaid leave from 6 June to 8 July 2007 to attend a ritual ceremony for her sangoma training.   She submitted a certificate issued by her traditional healer and other supporting documents but her request was turned down.   The applicant refused to grant her the request and she went on leave without permission.   She was charged with the following acts of misconduct by the applicant:

“Rule 24         Non compliance with established procedure and/or managerial instructions, being detrimental to the company;

Rule 38          Absent without a valid reason for 3 days or more;

Rule 47          Gross insubordination/challenge of employer’s authority/not submissive to supervisors or management authority;

Rule 48          Wilfully does, allows or causes to be done anything detrimental to the company, its discipline and efficiency.”

What do we call a collection of chefs (some ‘departeed’) ?

“5.        The applicant called two witnesses at the arbitration hearing.   The first witness was Stephen Walter.   He testified that he is the executive chef and was the third respondent’s direct supervisor.   She occupied the position of chef de partie.   The applicant is a multi million rand organisation dealing mostly with conferences and leisure and operates seven days a week.   The kitchen opens at six in the morning until midnight.   There are three kitchens on the estate.   The main kitchen can accommodate up to 220 guests.   There is a banquet hall with a separate kitchen which can accommodate up to 360 guests.   There is also a bistro kitchen which can accommodate 30 guests in the restaurant.   The applicant also provides braais for clients in the evenings.   It has employed a sous chef and a junior sous chef.   There are four chef departees (sic) working directly under the junior sous chef.   The third respondent was a chef departees (sic).   There are also two demi-chefs and six commi-chefs.   Below them there are nine kitchen stewards and two storemen.   There is also a hot kitchen, pastry kitchen and a cold kitchen.   The third respondent worked in the cold kitchen as a chef de partie.   The morning shift was from 6h00 until 15h00.   The evening shift ran from 14h00 until 23h00.   The employees were being rotated on a weekly basis”.

Traditional healer’s certificate – suffering from ‘perminisions of ancestors’

“This serves to certify that Johannah Mmoledi was seen by me on 13-01-07 and was diagnosed to have a PERMINISIONS OF ANCESTORS.

She under my treatment from 13-01 to 8th July 2007.   She will be ready to assume work on 8th 07-2007.

Preparation of graduation ceremony of Johannah Maite Mmoledi

Dear Sir,

I hereby inform you of the graduation of the abovemention patient.   I am asking you to please give her days from the 4th of June to the 8th of July 2007 to complete her initiation school final ceremony to become a traditional healer.

Yours faithfully

Agnes Mahamba Masilo Banda”.

Labour Court still believes employees should be ‘charged’ for being AWOL ?

“24.     The commissioner correctly found that the charges stem from the fact that the third respondent was absent from duty for more than three days without leave or permission.   The other charges that she was charged with are therefore not material and are in any event an unfair splitting of charges.   The third respondent worked for the applicant for 18 years when she was dismissed.   At first blush it would appear that the several charges that she was faced with were fair.   On a proper analysis of it, they were unfair.   She should have been charged with being absent without permission for more than 3 days”.

How does premonition become perminision ?

“25.     The traditional healer has used the term “perminisions”.   According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary – sixth edition the word premonition has its origin from the French word ‘premonition’ or late Latin word ‘praemonition’ or from late ‘praemonit’.   It is defined as ‘the action or warning in advance; an advance notification or warning, a presentiment of something bad’.   A ‘premonitor is defined as a person who or thing which gives a forewarning; a premonitory sign or token.   A preminotory is defined as ‘conveying premonition; that warns or notifies in advance’.   It would appear that the word ‘perminition’ used by the traditional healer is similar to the word ‘premonition’”.

So – what is the solution ?

After 18 years service the employer was prepared to allow unpaid leave for one but not four weeks to become a sangoma.   Surely it was a valid and reasonable request and a temporary worker could have done the work for those four weeks.   I suspect there was more to the termination than meets the eye.