The battle for control of the Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Seta) continued with further legal action on Wednesday against Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande.
The Services Seta filed an urgent application in the Labour Court to retrieve the R1-billion that it argues Nzimande unlawfully transferred two weeks ago to the National Skills Fund.
This action followed Tuesday’s judgement in the Labour Court when the department suffered a heavy setback to its skills-development plans. Judge Annelie Basson ruled that Nzimande had exceeded his powers in changing the governance constitution of the Services Seta.
In her judgement, she also ruled that Nzimande had not consulted adequately in altering the Seta’s governance and that the suspension of the Seta’s CEO, Ivor Blumenthal, was unlawful.
In papers filed in the Labour Court on Wednesday, the Services Seta, Blumenthal, the Federation of Unions of South Africa and eight other applicants asked the court to set aside the minister’s decision to transfer the Seta’s funds two weeks ago.
The application asks the court to order the minister “to take all necessary measures immediately to ensure the retransfer of all funds”.
The amount at issue is about R1-billion, attorneys acting for the Services Seta confirmed to the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday.
The application says that on Thursday April 21, the Services Seta “learnt from [its] bankers, Standard Bank, that the bank had been phoned by the department of higher education and training and told that the Services Seta accounts must be closed and the funds transferred to the National Skills Fund”.
“The result of this is that the Services Seta cannot make immediate payments which are required as a matter of urgency and cannot be reasonably delayed.”
Gwebs Qonde, the department’s acting director general, told the M&G that the department was working on its response to the application.
The minister would appeal Tuesday’s judgement, the department said in a statement on Wednesday. The judgement was a “temporary setback”, it said.
“We intend to urgently undertake comprehensive legislative changes to ensure more effective oversight of government over the Setas, align these institutions with the post-school education and training system as a whole, and to ensure that these institutions adequately respond to the national priority of skills development,” the statement said.