Concourt: Business ignores domestic workers’ rights

The Constitutional Court (Concourt) ruled on Friday that domestic workers have the same rights as employees of Pinnacle Point Group, a business that is about to be sequestrated, namely that they need to be properly informed of the legal possession of the businesses assets in order to free them of their accumulated debt.

This overturning an earlier ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal on interpretation of the Insolvency Act. 

The court went even further, saying that should they not be given a copy of the provisional order, in a way that assures it is accessible to them, the final order must be set aside and replaced by a provisional order.

In the case before the court, the order was left on a table in the kitchen, with the assumption that the employers would inform the staff member.

Investec, the bank affected, was not told that there were two other employees. 

The case under consideration involved three staff members of Ivor Stratford, chairman of the now liquidated Pinnacle Point Group, a luxury property company. 

Lawyers for Stratford and the employees asked the court to set aside his sequestration order granted in the high court in the Western Cape on the grounds that his domestic staff had not been “properly furnished” with the petition to sequestrate him. 

They said that had they been notified they would have objected to the sequestration. 

They said failure to do so was unconstitutional and impeded their right to dignity. The three staff members were domestic worker Clean Ngoma, and gardener and handyman, Eric Dlokolo and Andries Adonis. 

The court set aside the appeal but ruled that the interpretation of the Insolvency Act, which was that “employees” were only those working at the affected business, was incorrect. 

Stratford and his wife Sheila, were sequestrated on August 14 2015, after the high court granted the order. 

Investec Bank said the Stratfords owed the bank more than R240-million. 

The couple said at the time that their estate was only worth R780 000. This was rejected by the high court as not being plausible considering his position. 

Investec’s lawyers told the Concourt that they had to act fast because of concerns brought forward about transactions made by Stratford in the period leading up to his provisional sequestration. 

According to their testimony in the high court, this included a R28-million payment on March 12 2009, that had “in all likelihood” been transferred to Stratford or an entity controlled by him.

On May 15 2009, there had been an R6-million payment from Pinnacle Point Investments to a company called Ivor C Stratford Investment – but the court found that there was no company registered with that name.

Justice Monica Leeuw in a unanimous judgment, dismissed the appeal and supported the high court’s decision to grant final sequestration. 

She said, however, that going forward the affected creditor is required to furnish a petition to all employees, including domestic workers, in terms of the court’s reading of the Insolvency Act. 

The petition also has to be made available in a manner likely to make it accessible to the employees. 

Not retrospective
Justice Leeuw added a provision, however that: “Failure to furnish employees with the petition may not be relied upon by the debtor for opposing sequestration when the question to be decided is whether sequestration is to the advantage of creditors.”

Leeuw said: “There may be instances were a provisional order should be granted to avoid the concealing of assets or for other urgent reasons in circumstances where a delay would substantially prejudice the creditors.” 

The court said the ruling was not retrospective.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Domestic workers face a lonely battle against abuse

Behind closed doors, domestic workers are vulnerable to workplace violence and abuse, with little recourse against their employers

Abandoned by their employers, Ethiopian domestic workers are left stranded in Beirut

Kicked out of Lebanese homes and denied entry into the Ethiopian consulate, Beirut’s Ethiopian house helpers are being abandoned on the streets

Workers with noncompliant bosses can now access Covid-19 relief scheme

Last week the department of labour announced that more than R14-billion had been paid to workers, but some are still struggling to access the fund

The controversial Strandfontein shelter shows the importance of monitoring womxn’s rights during a crisis

Our government’s Covid-19 response and regulations must be subject to stringent monitoring to ensure womxn’s safety and security. This is why the Women’s Legal Centre will be an amicus curae in the case between the City of Cape Town and the SAHRC

Domestic workers are hit hard by lockdown

According to UIF data, only 15 888 domestic workers, of a possible 673 940, have been paid from the Covid-19 Temporary employer-employee relief scheme

Safeguarding social justice in a time of social distance

People who are self-isolating — the middle and upper class, especially — must take care not to endanger other lives in the process. We must all be human to the humans around us

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

It’s not a ‘second wave’: Covid resurges because safety measures...

A simple model shows how complacency in South Africa will cause the number of infections to go on an upward trend again

Trouble brewing for Kenya’s coffee growers

Kenyan farmers say theft of their crop is endemic – and they suspect collusion

Unisa shortlists two candidates for the vice-chancellor job

The outgoing vice-chancellor’s term has been extended to April to allow for a smooth hand-over

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday