The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has remained silent on the issue of two female staff members who were allegedly shown the door after initiating a petition against unfair treatment at the party’s headquarters in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
The two aggrieved workers say they were handed settlement offers on November 15.
Phindile Manganyi, former assistant manager in the office of EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee, told City Press she has taken the party to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), claiming unfair dismissal.
She says she, together with a personal assistant who worked in the office of Gardee and EFF leader Julius Malema, were targeted for their role in the petition, saying: “After I asked why they were dismissing me they told me the leadership says they can no longer trust me … So they gave me a settlement offer which I left the premises with, before signing. But my other colleague, who was fired with me, signed on the spot. I refused because I didn’t understand how I [can] just get dismissed … I mean there was no disciplinary hearing, no notice, just a dismissal on the spot.”
Reliable sources have told City Press that they were present when the second woman suffered abuse at the hands of Gardee after a ‘war council’ meeting last year.
A senior staff member in the offices of the EFF national executive said the altercation was allegedly initiated by Gardee.
“I was there. I mean I even saw phones flying all over the place. [Gardee] held her arm aggressively and dragged her and started to shout at her, calling her names and saying how useless she is. What made matters worse, this time, is how this happened in the presence of staff and external visitors.”
The matter, say sources, was swept under the carpet by the party leadership.
When approached for comment, the former personal assistant said that she has “no interest in further discussing any events which took place in that office”.
EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and head of communications Sixolise Gcilishe did not respond to requests from City Press for comment.
The staff petition
A senior staffer who asked not to be named for fear of losing her job, confirmed to City Press what inspired the petition: “There was a lot of disgruntlement in the office about the treatment we were getting by the secretary-general, and generally at the headquarters. We had exhausted the options of raising the matter through organisational channels and so we resorted to a petition. Everyone in the office, including cleaners and security personnel, signed it.
“It included issues such as spies being hired to check the movement of who comes in and out of the office, persons being employed to do the school work of the commander-in-chief and the secretary-general and overworking of employees with no pay for overtime.
“Since 2014 there have been no salary increases for staff, people did not receive their 13th cheque in December, and we have also been subjected to threats made by HR and senior leaders that they will ‘deal with us at any given point’ when we disagree with them. They have on many occasions withheld or cut our salaries.”
She told of overhearing a conversation between a staff member and Gardee.
The staffer had apparently borrowed money from the secretary-general, who then withheld her December salary until he was paid what he was owed.
City Press has seen messages between the staff member and Gardee in which the EFF secretary-general refers to staff members who are named ‘T’ and ‘S’ for the sake of this story.
“Send EFT [electronic funds transfer] to me and to S,” reads one. “I suggest you send the money to T now and soon. I am out of this … It is not my space,” reads another.
‘T’ is an administrator in Gardee’s office and ‘S’ is an assistant to Malema.
In the WhatsApp conversation the staff member asks Gardee to speak to her directly and not through other staff members and not to disclose what she does in her “personal space”.
In an email seen by City Press Gardee asks the staffer to pay the money to HR.
Said the source: “I didn’t understand why her salary would be withheld. What does [the staff member owing him money] have to do with the organisation and the work they did?”
Asked about the alleged assault and withholding of a salary, Gardee directed City Press to Ndlozi and then soon after blocked our number.
Ndlozi, after asking for questions in writing and later indicating that he would respond, has ignored City Press’ requests for comment for over two weeks.
Fear and loathing in Braam
After the petition surfaced in November, say sources, Malema called a staff meeting that was attended by the majority of staff at the party’s headquarters.
Staff claim he used threats of intimidation and fear tactics against them.
“He basically lambasted all of us, talking about how we are bringing the organisation into disrepute by starting petitions and how it was close to elections.
“He told us petitions are the highest form of ill-discipline and that it shows that he is working with mafias in his office. [He said] that should these people not get fired then one day he will come to the office and find workers protesting and saying ‘Julius Ke Masepa’ – which means ‘Julius is shit’ in Sepedi.
“He went on ... that everyone who had signed the petition should be fired and settlements given for however many months due to them. He said that no one will employ us after we leave the EFF as prospective employers would call the EFF and ask for references ... So the room grew quiet and there was fear written all over the employees’ faces and you know how Julius can be intimidating...”
It was after the staff meeting that a final meeting took place between the axed women and Malema’s personal assistant alongside the EFF deputy secretary-general, Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi.
You don’t disagree with leadership
The women are still reeling from events.
“I thought that there is nothing illegal about starting a petition,” Manganyi told City Press.
“We were calling on the intervention of [Malema] as we were not able to get through to HR and other organisational platforms. I have been with the party since its founding stages and I am so disappointed at how easily disposable I am to them. I tried to settle and explained to them how they had not followed procedure with my dismissal. I also told them I wanted a bigger offer if I am being shown the door, because they wanted to give me one month’s salary and 20 leave days. This all happened at the end of the year and I told them I am unlikely to get another job until the new year and I have a rental agreement which expires in May so I would need a salary up until then.
When a resolution couldn’t be found, Manganyi reported the matter to the CCMA.
City Press has seen her representations to the council.
She added: “I am still trying to resolve the matter, but in the EFF once you disagree with leadership you are as good as non-existent. It really is unfortunate.”