Mlokothi in bid to force Trollip’s hand after job offer reversal
Vuyo Mlokothi, the man who was shunned for the position of city boss after the job had already been offered to him, has turned to the courts to force Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip to hire him.
If Mlokothi’s court bid is successful, it will be the second time a court has helped him claim the top job in a municipality. The Nelson Mandela Bay council backtracked in November on its decision to hire Mlokothi, who had scored the highest in the city boss interview process.
Trollip said at the time that Mlokothi had failed to disclose crucial information relating to his previous employment and there was consequently no longer a trust relationship between them.
But a fed-up Mlokothi believes the job as city manager – which has since been filled by Johann Mettler – is rightfully his.
In papers filed recently with the Port Elizabeth High Court, Mlokothi asks that the November 27 decision to rescind his appointment be declared invalid and set aside.
He wants his appointment as of December 1 to be confirmed and also wants a cost order against Trollip and the municipality.
The city has filed a notice of opposition with the court.
The matter was removed from the court roll on Tuesday last week for Trollip and the municipality to file their responding papers.
Trollip had submitted to the council on November 24 that as Mlokothi was not yet an employee of council as defined in the Labour Relations Act, they were not bound by their decision to hire him.
In October 2008, Mlokothi brought a civil suit against the Amathole District Municipality after it appointed Mlamli Zenzile as municipal manager, despite Mlokothi scoring much higher in the interview process.
Mlokothi won the case and the decision was reversed in November that year. In the present matter, he claimed his appointment as city manager of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro prompted him to decline a number of other job prospects.
Mlokothi, a family man from Alberton, has since been appointed deputy director-general in the Eastern Cape Department of Cooperative Governance.
In his affidavit before court, he said the rescission was for arbitrary reasons and was therefore unfair and lacking legal validity.
He had applied for the position on September 13 last year and was shortlisted as one of the four best candidates. Interviews were then held on October 24.
“I was subsequently advised in a telephonic conversation with Mr Trollip that the interviewing panel had unanimously decided on my appointment as the preferred candidate,” he said in the affidavit.
This would be subject to the council endorsing the panel’s recommendation.
Mlokothi said he was formally appointed as city manager on October 27.
From then, there had been quite a bit of correspondence between himself and Trollip with regard to his departure from the State Information Technology Agency (Sita).
“My response was that I had taken special leave pending the finalisation of an audit on some of my subordinates and that, at the time I left Sita, there were no unresolved matters in respect of my employment there,” Mlokothi said.
On November 14, following further inquiries from Trollip, Mlokothi informed him that due to a confidentiality clause in his separation agreement, he was not permitted to disclose further details of his departure from Sita.
Trollip then approached the chief executive of Sita, who confirmed that Mlokothi was bound by a confidentiality clause.
However, the chief executive said Sita had no objection if Mlokothi wanted to reveal the details. On November 15, Mlokothi e-mailed the separation agreement to Trollip.
However, much to his surprise, 10 days later he received a letter from Trollip, informing him that his appointment had been rescinded based on his supposed non-disclosure about his departure from Sita.
The correspondence between Trollip and Mlokothi forms part of the court documents.
“My main complaint is not primarily the unlawful termination of my employment … my claim is based on the fact that the resolution which nullifies my appointment is unlawful and invalid,” the affidavit reads.