Fourteen Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) guards are challenging their axing for allegedly trying to rob the agency late last year.
The group claim they learnt of their dismissal from the media on April 1, but thought it was an April Fool’s prank because they were not aware of an internal disciplinary process against them.
“We do not have charge sheets, so we were never charged internally. We were served with letters demanding reasons why we should not be suspended and there was a 48-hour deadline. We were in prison and could not meet the deadline. That was the last we heard of the matter until the dismissal through the media,” George Mochoele said on behalf of the group yesterday.
The group, members of the agency’s protection service unit, was arrested at Prasa headquarters in Pretoria last October after they allegedly tied up and assaulted guards. They allegedly also demanded keys for several minibuses parked on the premises.
The group maintained they went to Prasa House to test the security after a series of thefts, an explanation the state has rejected as improbable.
On Monday, the agency said the group was fired after hearings.
But the axed employees said there were no such hearings. “Let them give you names of members who were part of that hearing and who chaired those hearings. We thought this was an April Fool’s joke. We are going to take Prasa head-on,” Mochoele said.
He called it a gross abuse of human rights as the agency had ignored the legal principle of innocence until proven guilty.
Prasa commented: “The obligation on Prasa is only to provide employees an opportunity to be heard. If they elect not to attend, the hearing can proceed without the employees. As in this case.
“We have been in constant communication with their lawyers throughout the process, to no avail. The decision to move on the dismissals was taken after a lengthy legal process by Prasa.”