A black employee – whose white superior at a Democratic Alliance-led municipality was suspended after the latter allegedly spat in his face and called him a k****r – has himself now been suspended from work.
The Citizen previously reported that Jerome Koeithing, an employee at the Midvaal Local Municipality, lodged a formal grievance against his superior, Dricky Kriel. This was after the intervention of the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu).
The Citizen further reported that the municipality was accused of failing to take disciplinary action against Kriel.
Currently, Koeithing and nine of his colleagues have been suspended and the municipality has accused them of having participated in an illegal picketing, unlawful violent and disruptive protest action. A few days before the suspension, Koeithing and his fellow employees were allegedly mahandled by the police, arrested and incarcerated at the Meyerton Police Station.
Gauteng National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Bulelwa Makake said the preliminary charge was one of malicious damage to property, but may be altered as soon as the investigation is completed. Makake said the charge against six of the 10 accused, including Koeithing, was withdrawn. But four were released on R500 bail and expected to appear in court this month on the same charges.
A source close to the situation said: “Jerome (Koeithing) was targeted, threatened and victimised because he had raised racism issues at the municipality and because The Citizen publicised the story. They want to fire him so that the racism case could disappear. Others are also victimised for supporting him,” said the source, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation.
Samwu provincial organiser Brenda Maubane said their members demonstrated during lunch time to show their dissatisfaction about municipal management and that no property was damaged in a peaceful demonstration. “However, suddenly there’s ‘damage to property’ and our members were arrested while resting and some just standing next to the SAPS station. We also know that the police were told who to look for.”
“We know this because when they arrested Koeithing, they kept on asking one another if it is him, ‘it is the guy’, but because there was no evidence linking him and others to damage of property their case was withdrawn – but still they were suspended,” said Maubane. Asked whether it was a coincidence that Koething’s suspension came after his complaint of racism against his superior, Midvaal Local Municipality spokesperson Aaliyah Dangor said the matter was completely unrelated to Kriel’s case.
“He (Koeithing) was suspended along with a larger group of employees, hence intimidation claims make no sense. He was arrested along with a few other municipal employees. These employees were arrested by the police while striking illegally. They were suspended after the arrests for a period of three months,” said Dangor.
Dangor did not delve much into Kriel’s case, saying it was still under investigation. She said it was standard practice not to “discuss any details, to ensure that no parties are disadvantaged during the process”.
Gauteng police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said it was very unlikely that the police would serve the interests of individuals or labour issues. He said any allegations of misconduct by the police during the arrest might be investigated if any person who claimed to be a victim came forward.