Jail time for Covid spreaders

Date: 01 Jun 2021

Reporting for duty after testing positive could attract an attempted murder rap

REPORTING for duty after testing positive for Covid-19 could easily result in facing attempted murder charges, police officers have been warned.

National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole has warned employees of the SAPS against coming to work knowing full well that they had tested positive for the virus.

“If any employee of the SAPS comes to the workplace while being aware that he or she is Covid-19-positive he or she makes him or herself guilty of not only misconduct, but also the criminal offence of attempted murder,” Sitole said in a circular.

Sitole’s communication was based on a Labour Court judgment delivered in March.

Judge Edwin Tlhotlhalemaje affirmed Eskort Limited’s decision to fire an employee who came to work after being informed via an SMS that he had tested positive for coronavirus.

Stuurman Mogotsi, who was employed by Eskort as an assistant butchery manager, was informed four days after testing for the virus last August that he was Covid-19 positive.

Eskort’s case against him was that he continued to report for duty after testing and also after getting his results.

While he tested on August 5, 2020, he reported for duty on August 7, 9 and 10. He was informed via SMS on August 9 that his results were positive.

Video footage taken on August 10 showed Mogotsi walking at the workshop without a mask. He also hugged a colleague, who has comorbidities.

Mogotsi’s defence was that management failed to give him direction after he had reported being ill in July. This was after he came into contact with a Covid-19-positive colleague.

Business continued as usual at work, he maintained. Thus, he did not know he had to self-isolate after testing and getting his results.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration had initially found in Mogotsi’s favour that his dismissal was unfair but Judge Tlhotlhalemaje set aside the award.

He said: “In the light of the evidence led at the arbitration proceedings, the egregious nature of Mogotsi’s conduct, and its impact on both the applicant and its employees, the arbitration award of the commissioner completely fell outside the bounds of reasonableness.”

In the circular intended for all SAPS employees, Sitole waded in on the Mogotsi matter. “The employee’s conduct was not only irresponsible and reckless, but also inconsiderate and nonchalant in the extreme.

“The gross nature of the employee’s conduct is such that a trust and working relationship between him, the applicant (Eskort) and his fellow employees cannot by all accounts be sustainable,” said Sitole.

“He had failed to appreciate, let alone acknowledge, the monumental harm, anxiety and strain he caused to his co-employees and their immediate families.”

Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo yesterday said the circular delivered a critical message to employees.

“The message is straightforward: if a member knows that he or she has tested positive and exposes others, they can be charged both departmentally and criminally.

“It’s a very important message. We took it upon ourselves to inform the SAPS members of this.

“This applies to everyone and not just police, by the way. If you know that you’ve tested positive and still expose others, you could be charged.”

BONGANI NKOSI bongani.nkosi@inl.co.za @BonganiNkosi87

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