In most instances, decision-makers in matters that evolve around the unfamiliar practices of witchcraft are uncertain over how to go about in deciding the verdict in such instance due to the fact that the practice is not known to ethnic groups that are not of the indigenous African origin.
Witchcraft has been described in Nasareiu Obo Mngomezulu v Tongaat Hulett Sugar Limited as victimizing all black Africans as well as having a negative influence on their lives because it raised intense fear and revulsion and had far reaching consequences for the African community as a whole.
In this case, a Human Resources Manager was found to have been a victim of witchcraft when another employee placed a substance, believed to have been a substance of witchcraft, on the former’s vehicle. As expected, the employee denied the allegation at enquiry and was subsequently dismissed for his intention through the practice and belief in witchcraft to cause either spiritual, mental or physical harm.
The Commissioner in the matter held that the act of witchcraft does not have to achieve its purpose (because only the perpetrator and the Sangoma, a traditional African healer, will know the exact effect he desired) for it to become an act of misconduct. The mere use of muti or traditional preparations to intimidate, scare or threaten another person is sufficient.
The Commissioner held that the applicant’s conduct on the day of the offence was reprehensible and justified a summary dismissal, irrespective of his previous record. The Commissioner further held that the use of the shared cultural belief system to intimidate another person was unacceptable in any workplace and will most definitively break down a relationship of trust and cordiality that exists between an employer and an employee and between an employee and his colleagues with whom she or he worked intimately.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sekhobe Abe Mopedi is currently a SEESA Labour Senior Legal Advisor. He obtained his LLB degree from the University of the Free State in 2007. He has been with SEESA for the past 8 years.