- Chief Operations Officer charged with bringing the organisation into disrepute and scandalizing the Chief Executive Officer
- Chief Operations Officer has not taken the charges preferred against him lying down.
- Chief Operations Officer furnishes his employer with a litany of demands
Phocweni-Incredible allegations of widespread looting and mismanagement by senior officers including the Chief Executive Officer, Vumile Dlamini have emerged at the Royal Science and Technology Park.
The allegations emerged following a decision by the CEO to institute charges of breaching the disciplinary policy, bringing the organisation into disrepute and scandalizing the Chief Executive Officer, Human Resources Manager and the Finance Manager by being in possession of a defamatory document labelled “Widespread Looting at Royal Science and Technology Park (RSTP).
The charges were preferred against the Chief Operations Officer at the RSTP state entity, Mfanzile Shongwe.
A second charge brought against Shongwe is that on an official trip to India while in conversation with the Principal Secretary, in the Ministry of Information and Technology, Maxwell Masuku, he made false allegations against the CEO, Vumile Dlamini, alleging that he had been siphoning money out of the organisation and protecting the Human Resources Assistant who did not qualify for the for the position and that the CEO was using the organizations funds wrongly.
The CEO further stated that Mr. Shongwe failed to protect the reputation of his employer by omitting to disclose to the employer that he was in possession of written materials under the heading “inyandzaleyo” which according to the CEO are highly defamatory of the employer and its management, whereas Mr. Shongwe as a senior manager was under the duty to the employer to disclose and to handover such material. The CEO concluded by informing Shongwe to show cause, in writing, why a disciplinary action should not be commenced, for the gross misconduct of having actively been involved, participating and orchestrating the said offense.
The decision to charge Shongwe follows his suspension from work on an allegation that he was allegedly responsible for the “Leaking of Information pertaining to the Internal Operations of RSTP with Intent to put the Organization’s Name into Disrepute”. The suspension was handed to Shongwe on September 09, 2019.
Handing down the suspension communication, in a one- page letter, was the Human Resources Manager, Khetsimphilo Dlamini in company of the Legal Advisor (Company Secretary) Nompumelelo Ndlela–Mntjali.
The main content of the suspension is found in paragraph one of the letter which reads, “following a series of reports about the organisation which have been peddled by some members of staff with the settled intention of bringing the organisation to disrepute, preliminary hearings have determined that you are implicated in the dissemination of these negative and false reports.”
Absalom Makhanya was then appointed by the RSTP to investigate the matter leading to the suspension.
However, it would appear that Shongwe has not taken these charges preferred against him lying down. On 15th June 2020, Shongwe responded and informed the CEO that he did neither of the offenses. On 4th February 2021, the Human Resources Manager, Khetsimphilo Dlamini informed Mr. Shongwe that RSTP had resolved, without prejudice, to explore the possibility of reaching a mutually acceptable term which is to cut-off the employer-to-employee relationship by among other things payment of an agreed exit package.
The notion of an exit package did not sit well with Shongwe who’s retort was that the idea of a negotiated voluntary exit package was offside as it had nothing to do with the matter whose consequence was the suspension which occurred on 9th September 2019. Shongwe also advised Khetsimphilo Dlamini that it was inappropriate that a matter which was in the capacity of the CEO could suddenly be handled by the Human Resources Manager. Shongwe asked for consistence when addressing the matter.
On 3rd December 2021, after much deliberation by both parties, the CEO Vumile Dlamini then wrote a letter calling upon Shongwe to appear at a disciplinary hearing on a date to be appointed in January 2022 to answer to the two charges which had been crafted by RSTP.
In preparation for the hearing, Shongwe furnished his employer with a litany of demands, some of which are expressed as follows:
- There has to be an agreement on the definition of the word “EMPLOYER”! In generally, companies or entities governed by Directors, the word “EMPLOYER” refers to a Juristic person (not a physical human being and nor an employee) and this person mainly represents the Directors or Shareholders of the company or entity.
- The EMPLOYER is to make available the terms of reference of the Investigation conducted by Mr. Absalom Makhanya.
- The EMPLOYER is to give assurance that the two charges directly culminated from the investigation report by Mr. Absalom Makhanya.
- The EMPLOYER is to give a document that states the reasons why the matter was being administrated by the complainants (CEO, Vumile Dlamini, Human Resources Manager, Khetsimphilo Dlamini and Finance Manager, Ntsetselelo Msibi) on behalf of RSTP; when the EMPLOYER could appoint impartial officers to handle the matter.
- The EMPLOYER is to share the following documents: (a) The original document with the defamatory allegations (b) Disciplinary Policy of RSTP (c) Report on the investigation carried out by Mr. Absalom Makhanya
- The EMPLOYER has to explain why the charge is crafted as an “allegation” when it is over two years that the EMPLOYER had been working on the same matter (instead of it being a direct and specific Charge). In the event there is no precise response, the EMPLOYER has to own up that the only reason for crafting the charge as an “allegation” is because there is nothing tangible that substantiates the charge.
- The EMPLOYER has to explain how the defamatory document stated in the Charge reached the EMPLOYER; and state the actions taken upon receipt of the defamatory document.
- The EMPLOYER has to state in precision the date, time and place which relate exactly to the actions of Mr. Shongwe that directly link him to the existence and distribution of the defamatory document.
- If there is no precise response on the specificity on the charge, the EMPLOYER has to own up to the fact that the hearing sitting was merely a continuation of the investigation process; taking it from where Absalom Makhanya left; and not a disciplinary hearing per se.
- The EMPLOYER has to state with reasonable proof that this Charge did not come from a ‘knee-jerk reaction’; which might have been carefully calculated and executed in the heat-of-the-moment; because such action is illegal and is tantamount to a planned constructive dismissal.
The Principal Secretary (PS), in the Ministry of Information and Technology, Maxwell Masuku was also not spared from the demands made by Shongwe. Shongwe characterised the conduct of Vumile Dlamini and Maxwell Masuku as a premeditated move to terminate him from RSTP; especially after it was uncovered that Vumile Dlamini acting in his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer of RSTP, signed without foresight, a contract with LSP Group Eswatini (Pty) Ltd, to operationalize the National Data Centre at the RSTP.
In so doing, he conveniently ignored the fact that there was still a subsisting project contract with Angelique International Limited (AIL); and when Mr. Vumile Dlamini was called upon by AIL to explain their position at RSTP after a contract with LSP Group Eswatini (Pty) Ltd was signed. Vumile Dlamini decided to collude with the PS of the Ministry of ICT to try and cancel the contract with LSP; and in the process implicated Mr. Shongwe as an officer within RSTP who manages projects; by associating Shongwe with an Executive of LSP, Nagappan Thanigaimani who after the signing of the contract, requested a change of Work Permit from being under the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology so that it became under RSTP.
There is also the matter of the commissioning of a statue of King Mswati at the RSTP which the investigator, Absalom Makhanya gave close attention during his investigation. Shongwe was curious to find out why Makhanya was given details of the project of the statue when in actual fact the exercise was to investigate the circumstances surrounding the existence and distribution of the defamatory document.
Shongwe contends that “that the EMPLOYER must commence a forensic audit on the project of the Statue for King Mswati, in order to establish if there was any dishonesty and link of him to the project, which in fact would help validate why a majority of the questions during the investigation conducted by Absalom Makhanya were on the project of Statue for the King.”
Shongwe is of the view that he was suspended on the premises of the desperation by the complainants who wish to conceal any information regarding the contract of LSP Group Eswatini (Pty) Ltd and the project of King Mswati’s statue.
Shongwe contends that these activities were premeditated moves planned to terminate him from RSTP.
It must be noted that to a large extent this narration of the events that continue to unfold at the RSTP are summarised in order to allow the reader to understand the complex shenanigans that have transpired at the state entity.
The Royal Science and Technology Park was granted a right to respond by this publication when it consulted the Information Officer Senzo Malaza. Malaza’s response after communicating with his line managers was that the organisation would neither confirm of deny the allegations of corruption and mismanagement. He said “if there is anything of this nature that is happening, then it is being dealt with internally. It is an internal matter.”