/ 30 January 2009

Mohlahlane lands R1,1m default judgement

The Land Bank’s former acting chief executive, Phil Mohlahlane, was fired from the Department of Agriculture last week.

But in the same week the ex-agricultural official won a R1,1-million default judgement in the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) against the Land Bank after officials from the bank failed to appear before the commissioner.

The Mail & Guardian also understands that Mohlahlane will dispute his dismissal from the Department of Agriculture in the labour court.

Mohlahlane was a deputy director general in the department, where he headed the black farmers’ support section. But he was suspended from his post in September 2008 because of an investigation into alleged irregularities in the AgriBEE fund he managed.

It is understood that this investigation was one of the reasons for his dismissal.

Mohlahlane was transferred to head the embattled bank in late 2007 after the resignation of chief executive Alan Mukoki. He remained in the position until April 2008, when he returned to his post at the Department of Agriculture.

Land Bank spokesperson Musa Mchunu said the bank had been informed that Mohlahlane had lodged a dispute at the CCMA, but did not attend the hearing because details of the hearing were sent to the wrong contacts at the bank.

He said the bank only became aware of the default award when a Land Bank employee at the CCMA offices — who was there for another matter — was informed of it by a CCMA commissioner.

”The Land Bank has since discovered that the fax number the CCMA used was one not used for corporate correspondence purposes on a daily basis,” he said. ”The CCMA has further informed the bank that it tried to contact the Land Bank on the day of the hearing but couldn’t get through.”

Another Land Bank employer told the M&G that exactly the same situation arose when he went to the CCMA last year. He also won his case by default after the Land Bank representative failed to turn up.

However, the Land Bank insisted that they had ensured the CCMA had the correct contact details after that previous experience.

”We don’t know why the CCMA sent the correspondence to the wrong address again,” Land Bank boss Phakamani Hadebe said.

He said the bank did not believe the ruling was fair and that it wanted an opportunity to present its case.

”We will fight this,” he said.