According to Johannesburg Property Company acting CEO Ruby Mathang, the company suspended the workers pending a probe into allegations of misconduct.
The City of Johannesburg’s property management company is yet again embroiled in internal squabbles between senior management and workers who are complaining of a toxic working environment at the organisation, which has ground productivity to a halt.
The Citizen has seen a petition signed by nine employees, asking the Johannesburg Property Company’s (JPC’s) acting chief executive officer (CEO) Ruby Mathang to intervene in what appears to be a hostile working environment, ostensibly created by senior management and the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) at the company.
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“We have for months witnessed the unruly behaviour of Samwu members within the company. Sadly, the JPC management is not doing anything about the behaviour. If anything they seem to be encouraging it,” the petition reads.
“Sadly, the intimidation, harassment and victimisation of staff, as well as gender-based violence are still happening right under your [management’s] watch.”
An earlier petition which was drawn up complaining of the same issues was followed by a several suspensions, leading many to believe that those who complain about the misconduct of senior employees were being targeted.
After a second petition was addressed to senior management, the company served a further six employees with suspension letters. Sources from the company have told The Citizen that only three of the nine signatories of the last petition have not been suspended.
According to Mathang, the company suspended the workers pending an internal investigation into allegations of misconduct. He denies they are being targeted for speaking out on wrongdoing.
“It is true that the JPC has placed certain employees on suspension. It is, however, not true that they have been charged or that the charges are trumped up. At this stage, the said employees have not been charged. So, it is practically impossible to trump charges. This is because the alleged sets of misconduct are being investigated,” said Mathang.
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“The JPC has policies regarding whistleblowing and reporting suspected misconduct. It is not true that they have been suspended for whistleblowing as alleged. At this stage, we do not wish to comment on the alleged misconduct they have been suspended for. However, the allegations against the employees are serious and are being subjected to an investigation.”
According to one staff member, the toxic working environment created by the lack of accountability in the company has led to some operations coming to a complete standstill since September last year.
This is when CEO Helen Botes was suspended, along with chief financial officer (CFO) Imraan Bhamjee and two other senior officials.
Capital expenditure and the awarding of contracts has stopped since then, according to the employee. Other staff members live in fear of losing their jobs as this is the second round of suspensions this year, which have been linked to whistleblowers.
The company has been rocked by scandals emanating from allegations of corruption by its senior staff, with dossiers, leaks and public statements belying the political nature of some of the internal battles being fought within the company.
Members of labour unions Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) and Samwu are among the authors of the petition, but are saying Samwu is behind the malaise. The Citizen has reached out to Samwu for comment to no avail.
A letter has been penned by the suspended workers addressed to various recipients, including senior City of Johannesburg staff.
“Please note that we have been subjected to all sorts of intimidation and victimisation ever since the CEO [Botes] was put in suspension. We eventually decided to draft a petition to put an end to this daily abuse by our Samwu colleagues and the employer [JPC]. We have had two meetings with Mr Ruby Mathang to address our concerns but nothing came out of it.”