The Covid-19 virus pandemic has been unable to stop the ongoing war between suspended KwaZulu-Natal prisons commissioner Mnikelwa Nxele and the head of the correctional services department Arthur Fraser.
Fraser has refused to accept a recent Labour Court ruling setting aside the dismissal of Nxele, who he fired last August, after a two-year court battle between the two.
Despite appearing to have initially accepted the Labour Court judgment, delivered on April 17, Fraser has now done an about-turn and instead approached the Labour Appeal Court to set aside the labour court judgment.
Both men are controversial figures.
Fraser, a former director of the State Security Agency (SSA), has been at loggerheads with Nxele since taking up the corrections post in April 2018. Fraser was axed from state security by President Cyril Ramaphosa and has since
been implicated in allegations of massive corruption at the intelligence agency.
The report of the high-level panel on the SSA, published in December 2018, set aside Fraser’s strategic development plan initiated at the SSA, saying it had disastrous consequences for the agency.
Nxele was implicated at the state capture commission by former Bosasa boss Angelo Agrizzi as having received bribes of R57500 a month from the company, as service provider to the correctional services department. Agrizzi also claimed Nxele was part of the plan to oust former prisons commissioner Vernie Petersen in 2007.
Fraser fired Nxele last August after a series of court actions. Nxele was initially suspended over the firing of a correctional services official in 2014. The official was reinstated by the bargaining council in 2017 and returned to work the following year.
Nxele was suspended and fired in August 2019 following an internal hearing. He went to the Labour Court, which ruled in his favour. But Fraser suspended Nxele again in March and appealed this ruling.
The appeal was dismissed by the Labour Court on April 17.
In the judgment, Judge Benita Whitcher found that the suspension of Nxele was invalid as the correct procedures in terms of the correctional services department’s disciplinary code had not been followed by Fraser.
As a result, Nxele’s rights had been violated and the decision was invalid.
In a terse, one-line memorandum to correctional services staff on April 21, Fraser said that “the court” had reinstated Nxele.
But two days later, in another memorandum to staff, Fraser said the department had petitioned
the Labour Appeal Court to appeal the order reinstating Nxele as KwaZulu-Natal regional commissioner.
“Therefore, Mr Nxele remains on suspension,” Fraser said.
Correctional services spokesperson Sibongakonke Nxumalo confirmed that Nxele “remains suspended” and said the matter would go to court on May 5.
“We are unable to comment further as the issue is internal in nature,” he said.