Fired athletics coach hopes UCT goes for the high jump
James Evans has just scored a minor court victory over his claim that he was fired for exposing financial irregularities
Athletics coach James Evans and the University of Cape Town are embroiled in a marathon lawsuit over his claim that the institution fired him in retaliation for exposing financial irregularities.
Evans took UCT to the Labour Court in Cape Town after the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration declined to hear his case. He scored a minor victory last month when the court allowed him to launch the lawsuit late.
According to Evans, a part-time coach at UCT since 1993, his woes started “during 2016 and early 2017” when he told his then boss about a slew of financial irregularities involving a senior staff member and a student. To his surprise, the person he had accused of transgressions was made his boss.
He tried to interdict the move but UCT hauled him before a disciplinary hearing and charged him with 40 counts of misconduct.
One of the counts related to an allegation that he was the legal guardian of an unrelated 27-year-old student and had not disclosed their relationship. “No evidence was presented to prove such relationship existed or could exist in law,” he said.
Evans was fired in 2018. Now his last hope is the Labour Court and the former lawyer, who is representing himself, has accused UCT of abusing its financial muscle to frustrate his case.
“This needs to be dealt with first and also forever,” he said in court papers. “[UCT] is insistent that some higher standard applies to me because 20 years ago I was a member of the bar. The simple answer is that I am not a practising lawyer. Anyone who says I am is lying. Nor is it vaguely relevant.”
Judge Herman Nieuwoudt found that Evans has reasonable prospects of success and directed the court registrar to expedite the trial.
This week, Evans said he is not only fighting to get his job back but to restore his reputation.
But UCT said it intended to appeal against Nieuwoudt’s decision to condone the late application.
“The condonation outcome is currently the subject of an application for leave to appeal,” said spokesperson Elijah Moholola.