Tension between Sahra CFO and manager ends in office punch-up
The CFO of the SA Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra) was involved in an office punch-up with a manager who was later fired.
Details of the clash emerged on Friday in a Cape Town labour court judgment that dismissed former Sahra supply chain manager Zenzile Qhajana's attempt to have his firing overturned.
Qhajana, who is now working as a supply chain manager in the correctional services department according to his LinkedIn profile, was involved in a confrontation with Sahra CFO Kgomotso Sekhabisa at the heritage agency's Cape Town office.
A disciplinary hearing found Qhajana guilty of insubordination, failing to set a good example for his subordinates and assault of Sekhabisa.
“The insubordination concerned an allegedly disrespectful email he had sent to his immediate superior and failing to heed the latter’s requests that he refrain from using disrespectful or insolent language towards him,” said Judge Robert Lagrange.
A Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration commissioner who heard Qhajana's appeal confirmed the manager's guilt and dismissal, and it was this finding he wanted overturned.
Lagrange's judgment said tensions developed between Qhajana and Sekhabisa in 2017.
“In part that appears to have been the result of Qhajana questioning the award of a cleaning tender in which Sekhabisa had been involved. In any event, matters started to escalate about the processes of obtaining a new tender for insurance.
“The CEO intervened to try and dissipate the tensions which were developing in the relationship between Sekhabisa and Qhajana. However, the tension between them relating to the pending insurance tender continued to simmer.”
In June 2017 after returning from leave, Qhajana was questioned by Sekhabisa in an email about the insurance tender.
“Qhajana’s response was to the effect that Sekhabisa was in a better position to answer that question as he was supposed to have done certain things relating to the issue.”
Sekhabisa demanded an immediate meeting in Qhajana's office while he was talking to a subordinate in an open office area.
“They went to Qhajana’s office. Qhajana sat behind his desk and Sekhabisa remained standing near the door to the office. It seems that the door was closed after they had both entered the office,” said Lagrange.
“A brief exchange then took place between the two of them. Sekhabisa testified that Qhajana kept deviating from the issues he wanted to discuss with him and was insulting him.
“The insults took the form of asking Sekhabisa how long he had been a manager and suggesting that he was like a spoiled boy from a rich family. His response had been that his background was not something they should be talking about.
“He claimed that he did not appreciate the way he was speaking to him as a supervisor and asked him to focus on the issue at hand which needed to be completed. Sekhabisa’s evidence about Qhajana’s verbal insults directed against him in Qhajana’s office was not challenged.”
According to the judgment, Qhajana stood up from behind his desk and walked around it so that he was standing facing Sekhabisa.
“Sekhabisa claimed that Qhajana opened the door and pushed him towards the door saying that he must leave his office.”
However the CFO did not leave and insisted they finish their discussion about the insurance contract.
“It was at that point Sekhabisa claimed Qhajana had pushed him on his upper torso trying to turn him towards the door to leave.”
The judgment states that during the confrontation Sekhabisa was slapped by Qhajana, who in turn was spat on by the CFO.
“Qhajana claimed that Sekhabisa had reprimanded him about his language in his emails and insulted him by saying he was a useless manager and that he had been trying to prove to management that he was incompetent.
“At that point, Qhajana claims he asked Sekhabisa to leave his office if he was finished with the official business. He claims he did so because the conversation had deteriorated 'to an insult and belittling session'.
“He then ‘politely’ pushed Sekhabisa to the door after opening it. Sekhabisa then spat in his face saying he was a ‘useless bastard’. He reacted by pushing Sekhabisa on his face with his left hand and Sekhabisa’s glasses fell down.”
A colleague pleaded with them to stop their confrontation.
Lagrange found the evidence of the email correspondence between the two men “plainly demonstrated that Qhajana was contemptuous of, and resentful towards, Sekhabisa, even though he was reluctant to concede that the language of his correspondence to Sekhabisa was anything more than ‘forceful’. By contrast, Sekhabisa had tried to remain courteous in his correspondence with Qhajana.”
He said he was satisfied that Qhajana “does not have reasonable prospects of success in the review application”.