Worker Loses Job over Graphic Picture

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By Emma Kakololo WINDHOEK The Namibian Catholic AIDS Action (CAA) Group, an affiliate to the Roman Catholic Church that is devoted to the fight against the AIDS pandemic, has been taken to court over alleged unfair dismissal of their Chief Financial Officer. Benjamin Ntihemuka has taken his employer to the Labour Court following his dismissal that was effected after he apparently inadvertently circulated a photograph of an amply proportioned, partially naked woman to fellow workers. His misdemeanour was a direct consequence of forwarding the offensive e-mail of a bulky woman getting into a pick-up truck, exposing partially naked buttocks. The photo was supposedly intended to warn about the hazards posed by G-strings to women driving 4×4 pick-ups. The picture whose circulation resulted in the alleged unfair dismissal by the church group was accompanied by the heading: “The reason why women in G-string should not drive 4×4”. According to court documents, a disciplinary hearing held in May last year found him guilty and axed the complainant from his job of four years. He was nailed on two charges of indiscipline and disorderly behaviour but he has in turn challenged the dismissal saying it is grossly unfair. Ntihemuka says the verdict was too harsh under the circumstances, if his accusers were to take into account the fact that the picture was sent as a result of human error. He also claims that he was not given adequate time to prepare for his defence. “I was forced to continue with the hearing despite not being represented,” he says. Also, the CAA policy clearly indicates that only persons within the organisation shall chair the hearing. Pieter de Beer from Ernst & Young Namibia chaired the hearing (in this particular case). There is no known legal relationship between him and the CAA. “The chairman was hired by our Chief Executive Officer Richard Bauer. They already took the sanction before the hearing took place,” he countered. The case continues today in the District Labour Court. He also accuses Bauer of instigating female staff workers against him by compelling them to write a joint statement in which they infer he sexually harassed them. Despite his appeal to the CAA board to treat the incident seriously, they also asked the board to exercise sympathy towards Ntihemuka. “According to him (Bauer) women employees no longer wanted to work with me, but that is not true,” Ntihemuka says. “Before the incident I had an issue with him where I was asking him to refrain from deviating donations to his private account. He took it very personally and everybody in management could see that his behaviour towards me changed. And because of that whenever we were in management meetings, he took any disagreement personally. That can even transpire in one of the management meetings on 9 May when he told me that he thinks by now I should start realising that CAA is not the right place for me to be and (I should) start looking for alternatives,” he stated.