‘My Justice bosses are bullies and they’re spying on me’
Fresh round of internal squabbles hits Justice Department as staffer cries harassment and crimen injuria
In a tug of war between senior members of the Department of Justice in Pretoria they have juggled their time between writing up grievance reports, disciplinary hearings, the CCMA and even the police station.
In the latest twist, the department’s deputy director-general, advocate Gabriella la Foy, is to appear for yet another disciplinary hearing, this time facing six counts including not complying with instructions issued by director-general Vusi Madonsela, and dishonesty.
This has in part to do with her refusal to return to her position after her suspension was lifted.
La Foy opened a case in March at a Pretoria police station against Deputy Minister ofJustice and Constitutional Development John Jeffery and Madonsela, claiming the department sent two people to spy on her.
She claims harassment and crimen injuria.
In an affidavit La Foy said she feared for her safety and that of her family after she was followed home by unknown people.
Times Select has seen the affidavit she gave to the police, in which threats, harassment and crimen injuria were among the charges laid against the two.La Foy started locking horns with the department heads soon after her appointment in July 2016, when she complained about the lack of resources to do her job to the expected standard.
In a later submission to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), she wrote: “A situation of conflict began to develop and the deputy minister indicated to me that I would not be given an office manager or any other staff, despite the minister’s (Michael Masutha) instructions to the contrary.
“My travel began to be turned down. I was being undermined and treated differently to other DDGs because of the fact that I was a young woman.”In the aftermath of the internal squabbles, La Foy claims in the affidavit: “I have been followed by unknown persons on various occasions. On one occasion a person on a motorbike followed me home.
“On another occasion four unknown men entered my residence and told my elderly father-in-law that they were keeping somebody in the vicinity under surveillance and tracking their cellphones because they were doing bad things.”
She said this has also affected herself, her family and her reputation negatively and has affected her career prospects.Gauteng provincial police spokesperson Colonel Lungelo Dlamini confirmed a case had been opened at Pretoria Central police station against the two, but said it was no longer under investigation. “I cannot get hold of the investigating officer to establish what happened,” said Dlamini.
Jeffery said he was not aware of the criminal case against him or Madonsela. “All I can confirm is that the person you are talking about is facing an internal disciplinary within the department. She’s a disgruntled person and this internal matter against her has been going on for some time now,” he said.Madonsela said he was not aware of any criminal case opened against him as he hasn’t been approached by police. He said he was also not aware of spies following employees.
“These claims are made up. I am completely unaware of the spies. In fact, nobody has authority to employ people to spy on staff. I’ve conducted myself in an upright manner,” he said.
Madonsela said he knew of one case of sexual harassment opened by La Foy, against a colleague in 2016. “That was the case and it even went to court, but no order was granted.”
La Foy’s statement to the CCMA, filed last year, claimed she was bullied and harrassed. She said she feared that if she used the formal grievance procedure it “would trigger a fresh round victimisation and harassment”.
“The continued harassment which I am suffering at the Department of Justice has been orchestrated and driven by the deputy minister of justice and constitutional development. There’s no mechanism in place for me, as a public servant, to complain about abuse at the hands of a politician.”A letter seen by Times Select details grievances lodged against La Foy by other employees. They range from performance agreements issues, intimidation, victimisation and bullying, to abuse of authority and power and defamation of character.
She was cleared of all those charges by internal investigations.
In her CCMA document La Foy said the department had a high vacancy rate across the branch, and that the department failed to provide her with support staff.
“The deputy minister engaged with me often and directly on matters relating to the branch without involving the DG. I discussed this with the DG and after this meeting the deputy minister began to display a hostile attitude towards me ... he was very short tempered, raised his voice and made accusations when we met,” said La Foy.
Jeffery denied that La Foy was not given staff to work with. “I don’t appoint staff but I told the DG to sort her out,” he said.
La Foy refused to comment.