The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) suffered yet another defeat in the High Court in Pretoria.
On April 13, Acting Judge Linda Retief fired objections raised by PRASA in the defamation case of Nqobile Pearl Munthali against the railway agency, and awarded Munthali costs in this case.
Retief found that the 2019 railway agency memo on Munthali’s suspension, which was sent to 15,000 PRASA employees, and the January 30, 2021 press release announcing his dismissal, were both defamatory.
Munthali issued subpoenas against PRASA in his defamation case last year, but PRASA delayed the trial raising objections to Munthali’s claims.
GroundUp understands that under normal circumstances, PRASA, as a defendant, would now have to file pleas, which would allow Munthali’s legal representatives to request a trial date. In this lawsuit, PRASA had to convince the court that the defamation was true and in the public interest.
But PRASA’s representatives in this case, lawyers for De Swardt Myambo Hlahla, have now raised a new objection to Munthali’s defamation case following Retief’s decision.
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Munthali was one of three executives named in a January 30, 2021 press release from Leonard Ramatlakane, the chairman of PRASA’s board of directors, who alleged that these PRASA executives had overstayed their term and were therefore terminated with immediate effect.
This action was unsuccessful. Munthali was reinstated on February 24, 2021 by Judge Edwin Tlhotlhalemaje at the Labor Court. Tlhotlhalemaje described PRASA’s conduct as “scandalously malicious and inhuman”.
Despite a series of court defeats, PRASA persisted in its efforts against Munthali, as well as fellow leaders Martha Ngoye, Tiro Holele and Nkosinathi Khena.
Munthali was the head of the PRASA Development Foundation. On June 11, 2019, PRASA suspended Munthali’s contract and on June 12, 2019 announced his suspension by issuing an internal notice, alleging that his suspension was “consistent with the commitment to good corporate governance and the eradication of irregularities with the organization”.
But no disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against Munthali.
On July 31, 2020, Munthali was advised that her suspension had been lifted, the disciplinary charges had been withdrawn, and that she was to remain on paid leave pending a resolution between PRASA and herself. PRASA has not issued another internal memo announcing the removal of the suspension.
Then, on January 29, 2021, Munthali was informed that her employment contract was terminated with immediate effect. The next day, Ramatlakane released her statement to the media, which claimed that Munthali “had been suspended for alleged misconduct” and that she had “capitalized on the instability of the board resulting” in an “extended and illegal stay”.
PRASA’s attempt to terminate the employment of Munthali and fellow executives Ngoye, Holele and Khena failed. In separate decisions, their contracts were declared still in force. PRASA’s appeals against the decisions of the labor court were also dismissed.
Repeated attempts by GroundUp to reach PRASA for comment have gone unanswered.
This article was republished from GroundUp courtesy