Journalist Sam Mkokeli is engaged in a battle with software and media company Bloomberg at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), over two written warnings he received in December 2018, which resulted in his dismissal.
He was dismissed for alleged “misconduct” relating to violations of the company’s social media policy, as well as a “continued failure to provide [his] managers with written agenda and inform them of [his] whereabouts”, Daily Maverick reports.
Mkokeli, who was the company’s chief reporter for Africa, was dismissed in March this year. He is now arguing for the warnings to be set aside, accusing Bloomberg of “unfair dismissal and unfair labour practices”.
Mkokeli believes he was vocal about the “underlying culture of racism” and “lily-white management” at Bloomberg, and that this led to his victimisation and eventual dismissal.
Bloomberg has denied this, with their submission to the CCMA accusing Mkokeli of a tweet which “supports speculation that [Stella] Ndabeni-Abrahams will become the next telecommunications minister”.
This, according to Bloomberg, is contravenes its social media policy which, as explained in an email to Mkokeli, states that employees “must avoid using any public forum, including social media, to express personal opinion — about politics or politicians, or anything else we write about, in a way that would affect our ability to cover news in an impartial manner”.
The company also took exception to Mkokeli tweeting critically “about the president’s (Ramaphosa’s) appearance on the state broadcaster, in effect for party purposes”.
Mkokeli’s lawyers argued at the CCMA that the company was simply looking for a reason to dismiss Mkokeli, and that they should have been aware of his tweets when they hired him, as he had posted similar ones before being hired.
They also noted that Mkokeli accuses Bloomberg of having a high turnover of young black reporters due to the company not offering them help in fitting into the company culture.
Bloomberg in response said it’s “not the company’s view” that Mkokeli’s racism claims are true, adding that internal investigations found no evidence of this.
Journalists were initially barred from following proceedings at the CCMA, but this was dismissed following an application from the SA National Editors Forum.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman.)