An alarming crisis at Limpopo Economic Development Agency (Leda) seemingly stands to spiral out of proportion as downgraded staff members fear the possibility of post-amalgamation retrenchments. Seen in the broader context, the impact of threatening legal remedy could mean another blow to investment in Limpopo.
Accentuating concern about a looming scenario, Leda employees this week pointed at a leadership dictate that already started when ex-Managing Director Lesley Masia was suspended two years back. Masia was re-instated but end of March this year parted ways with the current structure, which was formed on 1 December 2012 after an amalgamation of erstwhile stand-alone entities Limpopo Business Support Agency (Libsa), Trade and Investment Limpopo (Til), Limpopo Agribusiness Development Corporation (LADC) and Limpopo Economic Development Enterprise (LimDev). In the meantime Leda had been in and out of management limbo, as former Group Chief Executive Officer Sam Mafadza had left after an earlier lengthy suspension upon Masia’s initial return after he was suspended for an estimated 13 months, it was learnt.
Leadership issues seemingly stood central to the problem and had thus far led to close to 15 resignations of former employees who left in search of greener pastures the past months and plunging levels of employee morale, indicated one of the affected employees. He claimed that the organisation was not functioning properly, which led to staff being demotivated. The latest blow came in the form of a process of downgrading of positions causing tens of employees of an estimated 300-strong staff complement to drop to lower job gradings. The process was the result of the amalgamation of the four entities and aimed at centralising functions and not duplicating responsibilities, he pointed out.
The employee observed that the actual situation was the opposite of what the amalgamation was supposed to achieve. He proposed a return to the original status quo of entities under the wing of the Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism as a solution to the current problem.
“We’ve reached a point where we are sitting on a time bomb,” he remarked. According to him it appeared that staff members were on a go-slow, arrived at work mid-morning and maintained a low morale. The belief exists that retrenchments could be on the cards if urgent intervention is not effected, it was learnt. One of the sources raised the question what the MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism is doing to address the problem.
It was alleged that the processes had been finalised without consultation with employees, creating a volatile situation that called for an urgent demand to meet with Leda Board Chairperson Mofasi Lekota last week. The source further explained that the matter of leadership had also been raised during the meeting with Lekota, while he was simultaneously informed that the issue of downgrading of positions could be challenged in court.
Another affected party raised the opinion that downgrading of positions would impact negatively on future career opportunities. He agreed with the assumption that some employees could regard it as possible retrenchments underway. According to the official the provincial government would not be getting the desired output from downgraded employees. The situation created opportunity for the imbursement of huge salaries for lower output and literally meant a burden on the state in terms of the cost of wages it would have to pay, he explained.
South African State and Allied Workers Union (Sasawu) Deputy General Secretary Simphiwe Pinana told Polokwane Observer that they were waiting for feedback on a request for a meeting with the senior management of Leda before the end of the week. He indicated they had requested the meeting to gain clarity from the agency on what had happened with regards to the downgrading of positions. He confirmed that only management had been consulted on the process and not their members.
National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) Provincial Secretary Jacob Adams said in terms of the report containing the recommendations for downgrading the harmonisation process at Leda had not been concluded as yet.
Economic Development, Environment and Tourism MEC’s Spokesperson Burcles Napo at first said he did not have any knowledge of the matter but undertook to investigate. He, however, could not be reached at the time of going to press.
Leda Marketing and Communications Head Daphney Chuma did not meet an extended deadline for comment. The comment will be published next week.
Story: YOLANDE NEL