Vaal University of Technology battles to overturn former director’s claim for millions
Vaal University of Technology has lost another case against its former executive director for student support services, but says the matter has not yet been finalised.
The embattled Vaal University of Technology (VUT) in Gauteng has again lost a case challenging aspects of a claim amounting to millions of rands following a settlement order in favour of former executive director for student support services, Dr Segopane Seroka.
Daily Maverick has seen the Johannesburg Labour Court judgment dated 25 January 2024 that was granted against VUT on 19 October 2023.
VUT filed papers last year objecting in limine – that the period for Seroka’s claim had passed – based on the application of the Prescription Act of 1996.
VUT argued in court papers that Seroka had three years within which to lodge the claim relating to the termination of his contract, while Seroka maintained that he had 30 years.
Seroka won a settlement order in July 2022 against VUT when he took the university to court to challenge a decision to terminate his contract on 31 October 2019 amid a settlement agreement between the parties in October 2017.
VUT and Seroka had an employment contract from 1 September 2012 to 31 August 2017.
However, VUT terminated his contract before it came to an end in 2017.
Claiming unfair dismissal, Seroka referred the matter to the CCMA on 15 August 2017, which led to a certificate of non-resolution.
He then referred the dispute for arbitration on 5 October 2017, which led to the parties entering into a settlement agreement.
Seroka was reinstated under certain conditions. These included submitting a portfolio of evidence (PoE) of his achievements in the position.
It was envisaged that this would enable the university to decide whether to renew his contract.
There was a dispute between Seroka and VUT on whether both parties had met the obligations of the agreement, including the submission of the PoE.
Seroka’s contract was not renewed on 31 October 2019, which led to him approaching the Labour Court to enforce the agreement.
The court application led to the June 2022 order, which was granted in his favour.
This order was challenged by VUT when it filed papers attempting to appeal against the judgment that year.
Following that attempted appeal, VUT then filed papers last year arguing the in limine point of the act.
VUT spokesperson Kediemetse Mokotsi confirmed on 1 February 2024 that the point in limine raised by VUT had been dismissed by the court.
“The matter must, however, still be finalised on the merits, which means it is still sub judice,” Mokotsi said.
A source, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said VUT needed to comply with the June 2022 order that was granted in favour of Seroka.
“Remember that the settlement agreement was made an order of the court in July 2022. VUT’s attempt to appeal was denied,” the source said.
Seroka agrees with this assessment.
“They (VUT) have also shown their skewed understanding of the Prescription Act by likening a judgment debt with an ordinary debt. My judgment debt expires only in 2052, as it takes 30 years,” said Seroka.
“The longer it takes, the more compound interest it attracts. Unfortunately, it is at the taxpayers’ expense. How much money has been spent on these court cases without success?” DM