Hearing disrupted over booze claim

Lawyer representing 17 suspended national traffic officers accused the chairperson of their disciplinary hearing of smelling of alcohol and wanted a postponement.
Lawyer representing 17 suspended national traffic officers accused the chairperson of their disciplinary hearing of smelling of alcohol and wanted a postponement.
Image: Gallo Images

A disciplinary hearing in which 17 national traffic officers were supposed to give reasons why they should not be fired after being found guilty in April, was dramatically disrupted last week Friday when its chairperson was allegedly accused of being drunk.

The Road Traffic and Management Corporation (RTMC) and lawyers representing the 17 suspended officers locked horns over allegations that the chairperson of the disciplinary hearing rocked up at the hearing "reeking of alcohol".

The chairperson, who is a former commissioner at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), cannot be named for legal reasons.

Mcgregor Kufa, the attorney representing the 17 suspended officers, asked that the RTMC postpone the hearing as a result of his suspicions.

The officers were suspended last year for allegedly refusing to report for a parade held in Heidelberg. The parade was in preparation for the launch of the Easter Road Safety programme by former transport minister Blade Nzimande.

As a result, they were each charged with three counts of misconduct and insubordination and were later found guilty on all charges.

Kufa confirmed that he proposed that the hearing be postponed after noting that the chairperson was allegedly drunk. He said he advised his counterpart advocate Mojalefa Molotsi of the RTMC that the hearing should be temporarily abandoned.

"But RTMC and the commissioner insisted that they wanted to go ahead with the hearing despite clear signs that the chairperson was reeking of alcohol," said Kufa.

He said he also insisted that a breathalyser be brought in to determine if the chairperson was not drunk but he said the suggestion was shot down by Molotsi.

Molotsi confirmed the incident but said the hearing continued as there was no evidence that the chairperson was inebriated.

"We went ahead with the hearing because we realised that the allegations were part of a strategy to delay the hearing. The lawyer wanted to delay the matter because his clients were found guilty," he said.

Molotsi said the breathalyser was not deployed on the chairperson because the chairperson dismissed the allegations against him.

"He said he was not drunk and stated that people might think so because he had a lot of garlic," said Molotsi.

He said the matter could not be delayed any longer as there had been many postponements since the guilty verdict was issued in April last year.

The chairperson confirmed that he was accused of being tipsy by Kufa but said the allegation was one of many claims levelled against him since the start of the hearing.

"He [Kufa] said I was reeking of alcohol and, therefore, I should adjourn the hearing so that I can attend to his complaints," he said.

"Kufa has accused me of everything in the world, including taking bribes in the public service, without any evidence. He also claimed that I was taking sides in every matter I presided over, and that's not true."

The former CCMA commissioner said he did not have an issue with taking a breathalyser test to prove his innocence, but said he had left that option in the hands of the employer to put the matter to rest.

"I had not taken any alcohol that day and, besides, I only drink one glass of red wine once in a while," he said.

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