Qonde Bid To Overturn Suspension Fails

Suspended Director-General of the Department of Higher Education and Training Gwebinkundla Qonde’s bid to have his suspension declared unlawful failed in the Labour Court.

Qonde, who was suspended as a precautionary measure on 23 July 2021 pending a forensic investigation into the National Skills Fund, was ordered to pay the costs for his application and those of two counsels.

Higher Education, Science, and Innovation Minister Dr. Blade Nzimande, on Tuesday, said he “welcomes the decision”.

Qonde, who was aggrieved at being placed on suspension, took the matter to the Labour Court, which was heard on 31 August.

He alleged his suspension was unlawful because the minister was reacting to negative information about him that had been given to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Qonde said before his suspension he had told the president about how Nzimande had violated procurement regulations when buying laptops for university students through the National Student’s Financial Aid Scheme.

The Labour court delivered the outcome on Tuesday, 7 September 2021.

In its judgment, the court said it was not satisfied that the suspension of Qonde was actuated by the purported disclosures made to Ramaphosa.

It found there was no causal connection between the suspension and the disclosures under section 3 of the Protected Disclosure Act.

Commenting on the ruling, Nzimande said: “This is an outcome we expected”.

The minister added: “It actually vindicates government commitment to fight against maladministration, corruption and the capturing of the State.

“It also exonerates our procedurally correct approach in dealing with this matter.”

Some media reports suggest as much as R900 million can not be accounted for at the National Skills Fund. 

“Equally, it should also serve a lesson to those who continue or support those who are defrauding the state to know that their time has come,” said Nzimande.

The minister said all investigations within his department will be pursued to their logical conclusion with necessary remedial and disciplinary measures taken against all those who will be found having violated government prescripts.