TRADE and Industry Minister Rob Davies will make a final decision on whether to renew the contract of the head of the National Consumer Commission, Mamodupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi, after the Labour Court dismissed her third urgent application in the matter yesterday.
Her application related to whether her appointment would be renewed when her fixed-term contract expires on September 3.
Trade and industry director-general Lionel October said the minister delayed his decision until the court had made a ruling on the application brought by Ms Mohlala-Mulaudzi, who argued that an appropriate person, other than the minister, should be consulted to consider the renewal of her employment contract.
The court’s dismissal of her application cleared the way for the minister to make his decision. Judge Robert Lagrange also dismissed a counter-application by the minister to have Ms Mohlala-Mulaudzi declared a "vexatious litigant".
Ms Mohlala-Mulaudzi said she would decide on future steps once the minister had consulted with her and made his decision.
She said the judgment was "confusing" as the judge had said the minister’s decision was overdue and therefore probably in breach of an implied obligation to make a decision within a reasonable time, yet the judge had granted her no remedy for the breach (damages or ways to fix the breach).
Judge Lagrange said he believed Ms Mohlala-Mulaudzi "genuinely believed" she was being unfairly dealt with and her capabilities were being overlooked.
"One may question the wisdom of using the blunt instrument of litigation in an attempt to regulate nuanced and limited obligations in an employment contract, especially where the employment relationship is clearly strained," he said.
Ms Mohlala-Mulaudzi brought her first application in February, when she received a letter from the minister which he refused to withdraw. In the letter, he informed her that her contract as commissioner was from November 1 2010 to August 25 this year and it would not be automatically renewed.
The letter further stated that the Department of Trade and Industry would, in the interest of good governance, embark on an "open recruitment process" and that she was welcome to apply when the recruitment process started.
Ms Mohlala-Mulaudzi claimed she was entitled to a further five-year extension of her contract when the current one ended.
Judge Lagrange found in that matter that her contract did not extend beyond September 3, and that the minister had to suspend any recruitment process pending his decision on renewing the contract.
The minister again issued a letter in May stating that he would not renew her contract. This was again followed by an urgent application to the court, this time on the grounds that the conferral process should be done through the relevant portfolio committee of Parliament. The application was also dismissed.
In the latest application, the judge found it would be desirable if the minister would make up his mind "sooner rather than later".
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