A group of 27 white health and administration staff at the Eastern Cape’s premier psychiatric hospital, Fort England in Grahamstown, claim they are victims of racial discrimination, abuse and hate speech.
According to a Daily Dispatch report, the group claim the hate speech comes from black unionist colleagues in the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) who want to rid the institution of white managers.
The group, speaking through their union, Health & Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa), said they had written twice to the Eastern Cape Health Department’s superintendent general Dr Thobile Mbengashe seeking protection.
The report says Nehawu Eastern Cape provincial secretary Miki Jaceni refuted the claims levelled against his union members. “Without any fear of contradiction I would like to put it on record that Nehawu is a non-discrimatory and non-racist union fighting for the rights of all workers,” Jaceni said.
In one of the letters dated 19 March, 2018, Hospersa chair Anneline Fry told Mbengashe about “intolerable working conditions, ongoing tireless victimisation and making up of false statements against white managers”.
The report says the hospital’s operations manager Stafford Allan Fry has opened a criminal case with the Equality Court against Nehawu former branch chair and employee at the hospital Thando Mtshalala for using hate speech. Anneline told Mbengashe that Stafford, who is her husband, was left with no choice but to approach the court due to lack of action from the provincial head department.
In February, Stafford, in his approach to the Equality Court, also demanded R200,000 for defamation. The report says both Frys, in their letters and court application, described Mtshalala’s behaviour as “vile” and “abusive”.
Mtshalala resigned on Friday and the report says, on Monday he declined to comment saying: “I have been advised by my lawyer not to talk about this matter because it is in court.” Asked for the name and contact details of his lawyer, Mtshalala said: “I can’t give you his number. He said I should not give his number to the media.”
In his response to Hospersa, the Fort England’s acting CEO M Dyalvane wrote: “In view of the serious allegations made in your letter, I have referred your letter to labour relations and head office for further investigation.”
Anneline is quoted in the report as saying that Mtshalala’s resignation meant he was evading an internal disciplinary action. In her letters to Mbengashe, she said a recent recruitment drive had been rigged because three white applicants’ supporting documents, had “conveniently” gone missing. She also told Mbengashe that some interns in the hospital’s human resources departments who were part of the job awarding process – such as handling, vetting and compiling master list compliance checks – were themselves applicants.
Eastern Cape Health Department spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha confirmed that Mtshalala resigned in the middle of a probe into his conduct. “The hospital initiated disciplinary processes, however Mr Mtshalala left the department before the finalisation of the disciplinary proceedings.”
In his court submission filed at the Grahamstown Magistrate’s Court in February, Stafford accused Mtshalala of saying to a packed hall of hospital staff on 23 November 2017: “We will rid this institution of all white people just like Robert Mugabe did in Zimbabwe.”
The report says the hate speech case will go for a pre-trial conference in the Grahamstown magistrate’s court on 27 September.
The 27 workers also claimed that 17 out of 19 jobs advertised in May, went to family members of shop stewards. Sicwetsha said in the report that “an investigation was conducted and some irregularities were found to have occurred.”
Anneline Fry said three white applicants’ supporting documents, had ‘conveniently’ gone missing, which disqualified their applications. One of the employees said doctors, nurses and support staff were among the group who claimed discrimination.
The Herald reports that Stafford Fry said in his court application: “My workplace has become intolerable … I am extremely anxious as I feel that Mtshalala is out to get white people.”