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Loyiso Sidimba | 25 February 2024

EXPERIENCED business executive Zibusiso Kganyago, the SA Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago’s wife, is demanding substantial redress from Tsogo Sun for unfairly discriminating against her on the basis of gender and race in its compensation scheme.

At the centre of the dispute between Kganyago and Africa's biggest casino operator is the company’s decision to pay other executives sizeable amounts of money when they left, while she never received the same treatment despite serving with them in its group executive committee (GEC).

Kganyago, who was Tsogo Sun's group development director until December 2020, has complained that her former white male colleagues who were retired due to the impact of Covid-19 received millions of rand and were rewarded handsomely for their service, unlike her.

She is now the executive responsible for Pareto Housing, whose parent company, retail investment fund Pareto Limited, owns shopping malls across the country such as Sandton City, Menlyn Park, Cresta, Pavilion, Tyger Valley and Mimosa.

The Tsogo Sun Casino Management Company terminated Kganyago’s employment in December 2020 in terms of the Labour Relations Act (LRA), which determines the process to be followed when employers with more than 50 employees dismiss a part of their workforce based on operational requirements.

She then referred a dispute concerning whether there was a fair reason for the dismissal to the Labour Court as provided for in the LRA.

Kganyago told the Labour Court that Tsogo Sun’s conduct was grossly unfair and rendered her retrenchment substantively unfair, as set out in the LRA.

She maintained that she was unfairly discriminated against by Tsogo Sun by not being afforded the benefit of participation in a special share loan scheme and the payment of ex gratia payments.

According to Kganyago, Tsogo Sun Gaming Limited employed a number of senior executives who carried on the business of the Tsogo Sun Group.

Tsogo Sun Casino Management Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tsogo Sun Gaming Limited and Kganyago was employed by both.

She said that between 2014 and 2019 she was among a number of senior executives where members of the Tsogo Sun GEC and one of only two black women executives, with the other being Laurelle MacDonald, the current chief financial officer (CFO) of Southern Sun (formerly Tsogo Sun Hotels).

Kganyago, who joined Tsogo Sun in January 1997, also sat on boards of several of its subsidiaries and by virtue of being a GEC member and the subsidiaries’ board member she carried responsibilities and enjoyed a status similar to those of other senior executives employed within the group, including others who were also GEC members.

Her fellow senior executives consistently enjoyed generous standards of terms and conditions of employment and entitlement and benefits on termination of employment (on a no-fault basis) they received generous ex gratia payments.

Tsogo Sun Gaming Limited paid the ex gratia payments in addition to other retrenchment and resignation entitlements and benefits received on termination of employment and these were made as part of the companies’ consistent practice for senior executives.

The company’s policy was that interest free loans were repayable upon the realisation of shares or on termination of employment but Tsogo Sun Gaming Limited and Tsogo Sun Casino Management Company extended a special dispensation to former CFO Rob Huddy and erstwhile group legal director and company secretary Graham Tyrrell.

Huddy and Tyrrell got a deal extending the date for repayment of the interest-free loans, determining that if at the time of their loans’ maturity and the shares were still trading below the price at which the two acquired them, Tsogo Sun Gaming Limited would consider a further extension of the duration of the interest-free loans or write them off.

Former Tsogo Sun chief executive Jacques Booysen, who retired on June 30, 2019, was granted an extension to dispose of his shares and repay his interest-free loan in September 2022.

Kganyago explained that Huddy, Tyrrell and Booysen all received ex gratia payments and benefited from the special share participation scheme as Tsogo Sun Group executives. They belonged to the category which enjoyed generous standards of terms and conditions of employment and entitlement and benefits on termination of employment (on a no-fault basis).

Tsogo Sun’s financial statements from the period of the executives’ departure show that in 2014 the company made available an executive facility for the sole purpose of acquiring shares in the company at R25.75 a share.

Booysen was granted R47 million, Huddy received R27m while former group human resources director Vusi Dlamini and Tyrrell each received R20m.

Huddy and Tyrrell resigned on July 31 and February 28, 2020, respectively.

Despite her request for an ex gratia payment on termination of her employment commensurate with her status as a senior executive as was received by other employees who fell within the category of senior executives, Tsogo Sun Casino Management Company and Tsogo Sun Gaming Limited refused to do so.

Kganyago argued that Tsogo Sun Gaming Limited’s refusal to treat her on the same basis as the other senior executives who fell within the same category as she did constituted conduct relating to the remuneration and employment benefits of an employee that was irrational and incapable of reasonable explanation, offended her dignity and constituted unfair discrimination on the ground of her race and gender as contemplated in the Employment Equity Act.

At the Labour Court, Tsogo Sun Casino Management Company and Tsogo Sun Gaming Limited have stated that Kganyago’s belated introduction of the latter coupled with the allegations that both companies employed her appear to have been made in order to attempt to support her legal claims of unfair dismissal and unfair discrimination but were not based on facts that she could prove in evidence.

The matter is still awaiting a trial date, and, Kganyago's lawyer, Mira Briel of Harris Nupen Molebatsi Inc, was unable to indicate when the trial would be.

“At this stage pleadings have not yet closed so there is some way to go before a date is applied for and allocated,” she told the Sunday Independent.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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