Author: Prof Rochelle le Roux
Director of the Institute of Development and Labour Law; Professor in the Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town (UCT)
Most employers and employees have a broad understanding that the fairness of a dismissal rests on both a substantive and a procedural leg.
On the one hand, substantive unfairness, in broad strokes, suggests that an employee who should not have been dismissed, had been dismissed.
The legislature had chosen to express substantive fairness with reference to the employee’s misconduct or incapacity and the operational requirements of the employer. A dismissal for the latter reason is often referred to as retrenchment.
On the other hand, procedural unfairness implies that the employee had not been given an opportunity to be heard by the employer before the dismissal was affected. There is at least one practical reason for distinguishing between procedural and substantive fairness: when a dismissal is unfair only because the employer did not follow a fair procedure, the competent remedy is generally only payment of compensation and not reinstatement as would be the case when the dismissal is either substantively, or both substantively and procedurally, unfair.
Section 1 of the Constitution sets out the founding values of the Republic of South Africa: dignity, equality, human rights, non-racialism, non-sexism, constitutional supremacy, rule of law, regular elections, accountability, responsiveness and openness.
The tragic shootings in Marikana, which took place on 16 August 2012, have led not only to much needed discussion on how equipped and prepared the police are to respond to violent protest, but also discussion about the underlying factors which led to these protests, and why they were so violent. Important questions must be asked about the shootings. Video footage of the incident suggests that it was not a clear cut case of self-defence. Accountability must prevail, both for workers responsible for violence and the police. Hopefully the Commission of Inquiry, established by President Jacob Zuma, will receive a broad mandate to investigate not only the shootings, but also a range of related issues related to what happened before and after.