Council must pay R750 000 for favouring job candidate who failed criteria


December 3, 2018 4:15 am

File photo: African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – Stellenbosch municipality has been ordered to pay a settlement amount of R750 000 to an applicant who was removed from an appointment and replaced by a white candidate who did not meet the criteria.

Zenobia Campbell had been battling with the municipality for two years following her application for an advertised post of senior LED officer in 2016.

She was invited for an interview in October of that year.

According to her application before the Labour Court, a dispute was declared in September this year and the matter was referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in October.

The conciliation failed on November 13. Campbell’s advocate, Melanie Thorne, submitted to Labour Court judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker that her client was subjected to unfair discrimination.

“My client seeks a final order against the respondent (municipality) declaring the preference of a white female candidate who does not meet the requirement of the advertisement,” she said.

Ignoring a signed Employment Equity Plan whereby Campbell was the preferred candidate for both the positions she applied for was unfair discrimination and in contravention of Section 6 of Employment Equity Act, she argued.

The municipality’s legal representative submitted that his client requested a postponement to prepare its opposition to the application.

Campbell’s court application said that she applied for two advertised positions in August 2016, was shortlisted for both posts and interviewed on October 25, 2016. Both positions were subjected to the same interview criteria, questions and tests.

The posts requirements included an NQF level 7 qualification with a minimum of seven years’ experience in local economic development and project management, and proven ability to run successful LED projects.

Campbell’s highest qualification was a BA Honours. Her expertise includes rural development, land reform and development economics.

According to the application, she received an unmarked, blank envelope in her postbox with a copy of the investigation report conducted by a legal firm following a tip-off at the municipality’s fraud complaint hotline.

The findings of this report submitted at a special council meeting in June last year showed the panel appointed and approved the appointment of Campbell, however: “Mr Lombard (director of Planning and Development) scratched out the name of Ms Campbell, a coloured female, and inserted that of Ms Melissa Nel, a white female. 

“Ms Nel did not meet the minimum primary requirements for the position as advertised (Annexure H) and she was an internal candidate, administrator for three years in the mayor’s office and an assistant superintendent in the area cleaning.”

The report showed Nel only had a matric and an uncompleted BA (Development and Environmental Studies) and that there were irregularities, however, the investigator could not find that Lombard could be charged with misconduct.

Judge Rabkin-Naicker had concluded that a cost order be issued and left the parties to deliberate on the costs, which included the salary and benefits Campbell would have received, plus legal costs.

Several hours of deliberations had resolved in the settlement amount.

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