More than five years after ex-Democratic Alliance (DA) member Ntombenhle Rulumeni’s now infamous ‘toilet interview,’ she and the party are still battling it out in court over the multimillion damages claim she lodged on the back of the incident.
The Eastern Cape High Court in 2019 found the DA liable for damages suffered by Rulumeni as a result of the experience, which had seen her interviewed for a Buffalo City council position in the women’s bathroom of the East London Golf Club then three years prior in 2016.
In 2020, the same court refused the party leave to appeal the ruling but it’s now turned to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) which has set the matter down for hearing on 1 March.
During the proceedings before the High Court, Rulumeni – who brought a R10 million claim against the party over the “humiliating” ordeal – explained her first interview for the post had been unsuccessful but that after challenging the outcome thereof, she had been invited back for another try.
Her second interview took place at the East London Golf Club in Bunkers Hill where, according to Rulumeni, she was met on arrival by two senior party officials and taken to a women’s bathroom. There, she continued, she was interviewed by three other senior officials – including one man.
This second interview also proved unsuccessful in the end.
Rulumeni was quoted by the Sunday Times as having described the incident as reminiscent of apartheid and argued before the High Court that it had left her feeling humiliated and undermined.
And Judge Nozuko Mjali – who presided over the case – ultimately agreed, finding the DA liable for the injury to her personality that Rulumeni had suffered.
Said Mjali: “There is no doubt in my mind that the plaintiff was deeply hurt and felt unfairly treated by the agents of her own organisation”.
The judge, however, dismissed a claim for loss of income Rulumeni had lodged based on her having lost out on the post in the end.
The DA tried to appeal the ruling in the High Court but its application was dismissed, with the court finding there were no reasonable prospects of success and slapping the party with costs.
It subsequently approached the SCA, though, and a bench of five appeal judges has been allocated to hear the case on 1 March.
The issues before the appellate court include whether the DA was in fact liable for damages; whether Rumuleni succeeded in her claim; and whether the high court was correct in finding that the actions of the DA’s agents were objectively hurtful or insulting.