Pierre Nel’s appeal dismissed by SCA

“The appeal is dismissed with costs including the costs of two counsel”

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Drewan Baird. Oudtshoorn. 28 March 2013. 16h15. O!O explained the essence of the appeal councillor Pierre Nel lost today, in an article of 28 February.

Here is today’s judgement:

THE SUPREME COURT OF APPEAL OF SOUTH AFRICA

JUDGEMENT

Case No: 247120 12
Not Reportable

In the matter between:

PIERRE ANDRE NEL – APPELLANT

and

OUDTSHOORN MUNICIPALITY – RESPONDENT

Neutral citation: Nel v Oudtshoorn Municipality (24712012) 120131
ZASCA 37 (28 March 2013)

Coram: Mpati P, Nugent, Pillay JJA, Schoeman and Mbha AJJA.

Heard: 28 February 2013
Delivered: 28 March 2013

Summary: Review – Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000 – reinstatement of municipal manager after dismissal – whether constitutes fresh appointment requiring compliance with provisions of the Act.
________________

ORDER
________________

On appeal from: Western Cape High Court (Erasmus J)

The appeal is dismissed with costs including the costs of two counsel.
________________

JUDGEMENT
________________

SCHOEMAN AJA (MPATI P, NUGENT and PILLAY JJA and MBHA AJA CONCURRING)

[l] The respondent is the Oudtshoorn Municipality, established in terms of the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act, 117 of 1998 (Municipal Structures Act). The appellant – Mr Nel – is a member of the respondent’s municipal council (the council). The second respondent – Mr Pietersen – is the municipal manager of the first respondent.

[2] Mr Pietersen was appointed municipal manager in August 2007. Towards the end of 2008 the council instituted disciplinary proceedings against Mr Pietersen on two charges of misconduct. The disciplinary body found him guilty of the charges and recommended that he be summarily dismissed. The recommendation was accepted by the council and in March 2009 he was dismissed. Mr Pietersen challenged the lawfulness of his dismissal before the South African Local Government Bargaining Council and the dispute was referred to arbitration according to the procedures of the Bargaining Council. Shortly before the arbitration commenced the council resolved – on 4 August 2010 – to settle the dispute on terms that were later embodied in an award made by the arbitrator by consent. The terms upon which the dispute was resolved were, amongst others, that

[1] The employee will be reinstated in his position as Municipal Manager of the employer with effect from Tuesday 10 August 2010;

[2] The reinstatement of the employee and the employment relationship between the parties will be subject to and regulated by the terms and conditions of the employment agreement concluded between the parties dated 1 August 2007, as amended by the Addendum there to dated 5 February 2008.

[3] Mr Nel applied to the Western Cape High Court for an order reviewing and setting aside the resolution taken on 4 August 2010 – under the provisions of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3 of 2000 (PAJA) – together with certain interim relief that need not now concern us. The application was dismissed by Erasmus J and this appeal against his order is before us with the leave of this court.

[4] The court below singled out for decision the question whether the adoption by the council of the resolution of 4 August 2010 constituted ‘administrative action’ subject to review under PAJA. Holding that it did not he dismissed the application on that ground.

[5] I do not think it is necessary to pronounce upon that issue. It is trite that an appeal lies against the order of a court and not its reasons for the order. In my view the appeal must fail even if the adoption of the resolution falls within the purview of PAJA.

[6] The case made by Mr Nel against the council was that its resolutioil constituted the appointment of Mr Pietersen to the position of Municipal Manager, which was said to be in conflict with various provisions of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000. He relied in particular on s 51 (which requires a municipality to establish and organize its administration in accordance with various principles), s 55 (which imposes various duties upon a municipal manager) and s 57 (which requires the contract of employment of a municipal manager to comply with various specified requirements). His employment was also said to conflict with items 2(b) and 9 of the Schedule to the Act. (1)

[7] 1 do not find it necessary to detail the various provisions I have referred to. Suffice it to say that those provisions must he taken account of when appointing a municipal manager. Counsel for Mr Nel properly accepted that if the resolution did not constitute the appointment of Mr Pietersen to that position then the appeal must fail.

[8] The resolution, in terms, was to ‘reinstate’ Mr Pietersen to his former position. In Jackson v Fisher’s Foils Ltd [1944] 1 All ER 421 Humpreys J quoted with approval the following dictum in Dixon (William) Ltd v Patterson 1943 SC (J) 7g(2) as to the meaning of ‘reinstatement’:

‘The natural and primary meaning of “to reinstate” as applied to a man who has been dismissed (ex hypothesi without justification) is to replace him in the position from which he was dismissed, and so to restore the status quo ante the dismissal.’

[9] In Equity Aviation Services (Pty) Ltd v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (3) Nkabinde J, with reference to the provisions of s 193 of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (LRA) said the following on the meaning of ‘reinstatement’:

‘The ordinary meaning of the word “reinstate” is to put the employee back into the same job or position he or she occupied before the dismissal, on the same terms and conditions.

Reinstatement is the primary statutory remedy in unfair dismissal disputes. It is aimed at placing an employee in the position he or she would have been but for the unfair
dismissal. It safeguards workers’ employment by restoring the employment contract. Differently put, if employees are reinstated they resume employment on the same terms and conditions that prevailed at the time of their dismissal.’ (4)

[10] From the provisions of the LRA and the cases I have cited it is clear that by reinstating a dismissed employee the employer does not purport to conclude a fresh contract of employment. The employer merely restores the position to what it was before the dismissal. That that was the intention and effect of the resolution is also made clear by paragraph 2, so far as it provides that the relationship between the parties would be ‘subject to and regulated by the terms and conditions of the eniployment agreement concluded between the parties dated 1 August 2007… ‘.

[11] Indeed, it would be absurd to construe the settlement of a labour dispute on the terms on which this dispute was settled to constitute a fresh appointment. That construction would necessarily require the council to advertise the position, interview numerous hopeful applicants. and then decide who to appoint, which would make it impossible to settle a labour dispute on these terms, contrary to the concept of reinstatement which is the primary statutory remedy in unfair dismissal disputes’.’ (5)

[12] In my view the resolution taken by the council did not constitute the appointment of a municipal manager as contemplated by the Act. His appointment occurred in 2007 and the resolution did no more than to restore that relationship. In those circumstances the resolution is not susceptible to review on the grounds now advanced and the appeal must fail, albeit for reasons different to those of the court below.

[13] The appeal is dismissed with costs including the costs of two counsel.

NOTES
1.The Code of Conduct for Municipal Staff Members.
2. At 85.
3. Equify Aviaiion Services (Plyl Ltd v Commis.siun for Conci/ia/ion, Mediation and Arbiiruiion 2009 (1) SA 390 (CC).
4. Para 36.
5. Equity Aviation para 36.

APPEARANCES

FOR APPELLANT: G OLIVER
Instructed by
Nic Barrow Attorneys,
c/o J Theron/Werksmans, Cape Town
Naudés Attorneys, Bloemfontein

FOR RESPONDENT: N ARENDSE SC (with him C Carrolissen)
Instructed by
Duncan Korabie Attorneys, Wellington
Symington & De Kok, Bloemfontein.

________________________________________________________
DREWAN BAIRD COMMUNICATIONSensaytional – 076 349 6316
Making sure they see it your way
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7 thoughts on “Pierre Nel’s appeal dismissed by SCA

  1. @Willempie: Ek stem 100% saam met jou sentimente, well said!! Oor jou opinies egter weet ek nie of dit so akkuraat is nie. Ek sal die goed aanvra en vir O!O stuur. Sover ek weet was die Godfrey Louw issue voor die raad maar is met die DA se meerderhiedstem begrawe, maar ek kan verkeerd wees. Die volgende groot saak teen Bredell word glo aangehoor op16 Mei. Dit is daai een van die buitelander se ontwikkeling in Plett. Ek dink O!O het al hieroor berig. Dan is die “rumour” hier rond dat sowat 70 eise in die pyplyn wag. Dit is scary my vriend, scary!

  2. @Webster. Man, ja. Ek weet nou nie so veel van die goed as wat jy weet nie. so ek kan nou nie juis met die sekerheid se wat jy se nie. Daar was natuurlik die geval van Memory Booysen se sogenaamde laster van Bitou. Dit het so ver as die Bloemfonteinse Apelhof gegaan en hy het daar lelik geskop. Dan is daar ook die New Horizon grondtransaksie waar ook gat geskop was, maar daai een is nog op apel ne? Of so verstaan ek. Maar natuurlik, soos jy tereg uitwys is al daardie litigasie met belastingbetalers se geld gedoen so dit affekteer nie die DA koffers nie.

    Die Godfrey Louw uitspraak….. Ja…. Wie was die voorsittende beampte in daai spulletjie nou weer? Ek onthou vaagweg iemand het ‘n baie mooi pittige ding daaroor te se gehad. Ek sal moet ‘n bietjie navors en terugkom na jou toe. Kannie so mooi onthou nie. Miskien kan jy lig daarop werp…

    Al regskostes wat ek van weet wat hulle – die DA – moet uit eie sak betaal is die Nel vs Pietersen mistykie, die res is vir die belastingbetalers se rekening.

    Na my mening, enige bliksem wat belastingbetalers se geld steel, of hy nou ‘n skelm traffic cop is wat ‘n bribe vat, of ‘n skelm prokureur wat te veel vra vir niks doen nie, of ‘n skelm politikus is wat sy gabbas bevoordeel, moet van ‘n kant af opgef*k word.

    Pak uit pellie, pak uit. Gee die feite en die bewyse dan kan daar iets gedoen word. Skimpe beteken net mooi fokol. Haal uit en wys!

  3. Jesus, Nkandla, I can certainly not speak for Barrow & Co, but I am privately convinced that Pietersen’s colour, or race, has sweet fuck all to do with this fight.

    Get real, dammit!

    People with your mindset are every inch as disagreeable as those Christian National black suited bowler sporting 80’s PW acolytes.

    Fuck, it pisses me off!

  4. @Willempie: Wat laat jou dink die DA het geld oor om Nel te help betaal na hul rekordtal nederlae in die hof die afgelope paar jaar? Magtag, ek weet nie van een saak wat hulle gewen het nie. Die enigste rede waarom hul nog so lekker litigeer is omrede hul geld skuif van munisipale fondse (maw ons die belastingbetalers). As jy my nie glo nie gaan lees die uitspraak in Godfrey Louw se dissiplinere verhoor en appel daarna. Hy het doelbewus en welwetende belastingbetalers se geld geld gebruik (met die goedkeuring van Bekker) om vir litigasie van die DA te betaal. Maar niemand sal mos ‘n woord rep hieroor nie. Solank dit die DA is wat ons geld steel en net nie die ANC is alles oraait.

  5. Norman u r brilliant i dare to call u stormin norman – u stopped the awb in vensterburg and halted the racists in oudtshoorn dead in their tracks.

  6. Hmmmm. En nou?

    Nel het sy naam laat gebruik om die DA se werk te doen en nou sal hy vir die gelag moet betaal. Ek wil nou nie voorspellings maak en die bobbejaan agter die bult gaan haal nie, maar as ‘n mens na die DA record sover kyk is dit hoog onwaarskynlik dat hulle hul word om te betaal sal gestand doen, veral nou dat hy verloor het.

    Dit gaan voorwaar interesant wees om te sien hoe presies die DA nou optree teenoor ‘n man wat uit blinde getrouheid aan die party sy kop op ‘n blok gesit het vir hulle. Nou sit hy in die netelige posisie waar hy finansieel verandwoordelik gehou sal word en hy moet staatmaak op die woord van James Selfe en Theuns Botha dat die DA sal help daarmee.

    ‘n Vraag wat nog altyd by my was is, hoekom was dit nodig vir ‘n raadslid om so ‘n risiko te moet loop onder die omstandighede wat die DA minister van Plaaslike Regering in die Weskaap hierdie Pietersen tammeletjie op ‘n heel ander, veiligier en minder riskante manier kon opgelos het as hy net dit wat voor die hand liggend was gedoen het op die tydstip toe hy kon en moes doen?

    Pierre, my innige simpatie, nie omdat jy verloor het nie, dit was altyd ‘n longshot, maar omdat jou toekoms nou in die DA se hande is en jy moet steun op hulle ondernemings. Help hom Nic, en begin sommer dadelik.

  7. Sjoe hierdie was ‘n duur grappie vir Nel. Ek hoop die DA gaan hom help betaal. Hoeveel einas moet die arme DA nog kry in die hof voordat hulle gaan begin litigeer op meriete en nie op emosie nie, wonder ek. Alternatiewelik moet hulle dalk maar begin kyk na ‘n alternatiewe regspan.

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