Popular tourism management lecturer and head of department (HOD), Snyman Ohlhoff was laid to rest after an emotional service at the Lighthouse Christian Centre, Parow on Thursday, November 1, 2018. Ohlhoff leaves his wife of 17 years, Maretha and their two boys.
Ohlhoff was employed at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) as HOD of Tourism and Events Management and a valued member of the local National Tertiary Education Union branch executive committee. His death, at his own hand, on October 24, 2018, highlights the travesty that employee relations is at CPUT.
A whistle blower, Ohlhoff was provisionally suspended by CPUT on February 21, 2018. A suspension which was confirmed on February 28, 2018. Despite being suspended for 244 days (35 weeks or 8 months), Ohlhoff was never charged. Furthermore, CPUT has yet to release the investigator’s report which was apparently finalised on October 18, 2018.
In April, 2018 Ohlhoff sought relief through the CCMA by declaring an unfair labour practice – suspension. This matter was referred to arbitration, and despite being part-heard was settled on October 3, 2018 . Mr Ohlhoff proposed settlement with the view of preserving relations with CPUT and his direct line manager. The settlement agreement provided that CPUT was required to finalise the investigation that had already taken over 8 months and to have a report within 14 days. In addition the parties would agree to meet to seek resolution to the matter in its entirety. On October 22, Ohlhoff together with the local union representative met with CPUT representative, Mr Zola Mcaciso who is contracted by the University through Cliff Dekker Hofmeyer Attorneys and Ms. Mandisa Silo , line manager to Mr Ohlhoff. However no resolution was found. Still there were no disciplinary charges and the request for the investigation report was not answered.
Mr. Ohlhoff took his own life on Wednesday, 24 October 2018. In a Facebook post on his wife Maretha Ohlhoff wrote: The impact of my husband’s lengthy suspension on all of us. “My husband was suspended early this year, it was a complete shock. Suddenly he was not allowed to work, not allowed to speak to any of his work colleagues and not allowed to even set foot on campus. He had a very busy work life, now there was nothing – as you can imagine, he collapsed, he couldn’t eat, couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t talk to family, it was absolutely awful. Our family unit has been ripped apart and turned upside down. All of this because there was a disagreement. Colleagues believing that he was ‘crazy’ and discriminating against him for being honest about personal struggles. Sharing confidential information and opening up his heart, just to learn that this had been used against him. This could have been resolved in a more amicable way. Suspension should only be used in the most extreme instances. To Date, he is yet to be charged. This lengthy suspension has become more punitive that precautionary. My husband has been crushed. Losing weight, losing his confidence, his dignity, no sleep, feeling like an outcast and a leper, suffering from the negative inferences that are drawn. The questions, the quilt, ” she stated.
“Today, he took his own life. “Employers should think twice before suspending someone and also prevent the process from dragging on too long. #savealife,” she pleaded.
NTEU General Secretary, Grant Abbot, who attended the memorial service with the NTEU NEC for Social Justice stated “NTEU is not just as a union, but as an organisation of conscience. It is our belief that the manner in which Snyman was treated had a direct effect on where his family find themselves today. We believe that the management at CPUT has forgotten the human element of employer relations. Testimonies and examples reflect this is completely non-existent at CPUT.”
“It has been communicated to CPUT management that NTEU will not move on from this case and will pursue this matter under our constitutional mandate towards the fulfilment of justice,” said Abbot. However despite numerous attempts to meet with the Vice Chancellor of CPUT Chris Nhlapo to seek clarity on what went wrong, CPUT management have not honoured our meeting request.”
Also see FEDUSA article: Speedy Justice for Ohlhof
Grant Abbott (NTEU General Secretary)
Jako Nel (NTEU National Marketing Officer)
NTEU is a politically non-aligned trade union organizing exclusively in the Higher Education sector and is affiliated to FEDUSA, the largest politically non-aligned trade union federation in South Africa.