‘Hit list’ claim rocks state film body

2018-03-18 08:31

Distraught staff at state film body the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) this week wrote another letter to arts minister Nathi Mthethwa begging him to intervene as whistle-blowers among them are facing retrenchment in a restructuring process implemented by CEO Zama Mkosi.

The staff letter

In their letter, 92% of NFVF staff members (excluding senior management) paint a grim picture of a “dismal and deteriorating state of affairs” with “morale at its all-time lowest” where they are facing retrenchment apparently for blowing the whistle by sending an earlier letter to the minister in March last year and for talking to City Press.

In response to their request for better pay, they write, Mkosi began a salary benchmarking exercise that turned into an organisation development (OD) process that is, they claim, driven by collapsing the positions of staff Mkosi wants to get rid of. They claim they are not being consulted and are being intimidated by Mkosi and her head of human resources.

The ‘hit list’

An impeccable source close to the OD process this week presented City Press with evidence of “a hit list” that Mkosi is said to have presented to management of who must go in the OD process.

Mkosi apparently did not provide reasons but the source says “they were the suspected masterminds of the complaints document that was sent to the minister”.

The names on the list were: Aifheli Makhwanya (head of policy and research); Skhumbuzo Mvelase (manager in the CEO’s office) who has already been suspended; Terrence Khumalo (film certification manager); Tsietsi Themane (researcher); Thandeka Zwana (production and development manager) who allegedly resigned because of being targeted; Xolelwa Mayatula (production and development coordinator) who allegedly resigned because of being targeted; and Peter Kwele (head of marketing and communications).

It was unclear what the OD process had cost taxpayers to date.

Powerful WhatsApp group

City Press this week learnt from another source that a select core of the NFVF council belong to a “very powerful” WhatsApp group that “essentially runs the council”.

The names of the alleged group were provided to City Press and include a former member of council who is allegedly related to a Mkosi ally on staff.

Union angered

Ncedo Ngcama of National Health Education and Allied Workers’ Union told City Press it had taken months for Mkosi to recognise the union, which represents the bulk of the staff.

He proceeded to confirm the names on the list, saying Mkosi was blaming Nehawu for talking to the media.

Ngcama said, “there is no reason for people to lose their jobs there. They want to retrench four posts and open up six new ones, but will not listen when we say we need to merge skills and see if those retrenched can fill the new positions. This is against the spirit of the labour relations act, which also says they are required to provide reasonable grounds on why they reject our proposal. They have failed to do that. They just sent a letter with a vague reply.”

Ngcama added: “We would like it put on the record that the NFVF has also refused to give us the minutes of the council’s decision to approve the OD process. They are saying it is confidential.”

The department responds

The NFVF did not respond to any claims.

Department of arts and culture (DAC) spokesperson Zimasa Velaphi said the department “had a meeting with [Mkosi] and assurance was given that there was consultation with staff, management and labour regarding the organisational review. DAC firmly believes that any organisational review cannot be done without consultation and without following proper human resources processes.”

She says the department is not aware of the list.

After their first letter the department conducted a forensic investigation at the NFVF. Staff plead for this to be made public.

Velaphi said: “The report was submitted to the chairperson of the NFVF council. The council has to implement the recommendations that are in the report. [The department] awaits the council’s decision.”

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March 17 2019