Parliament’s labour committee chair is the madam from hell
Lumka Yengeni, the top ANC MP who chairs parliament’s portfolio committee on labour, has been found to be in breach of the laws she is supposed to oversee.
The estranged wife of party bigwig Tony Yengeni has been exposed as the opposite of a model employer by a former domestic worker, Lucia Dlephu, who has accused her of flouting several labour laws.
Yengeni likes to portray herself as a champion of worker rights, tweeting on May 7 last year that “employers who are still exploiting workers the inspectors of labour will be at your doorstep soon”.
Dlephu took Yengeni to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration after the MP fired her on February 14 this year.
According to documents submitted to the CCMA, Yengeni employed Dlephu in July 2013 to look after her mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer’s and lives in Gugulethu.
A settlement was reached at the CCMA on May 13. The amount and content of the settlement are confidential by agreement between Yengeni and Dlephu.
A relieved Dlephu said from her Gugulethu home that “it was not nice” working for Yengeni, who had denied her leave and lunch breaks. “If I needed to do something at my house, I was not allowed to come here. I had to live in the house and sleep in the room with the granny. I was on duty 24 hours a day to make sure she does not wander off.
“In October last year, I asked Mrs Yengeni for leave. She became very angry. She asked me what that is. She was very upset. She told me I had no job before, and she was paying me more than other people.
“Mrs Yengeni is very rich but I am the only one in my family who works, and I must look after everybody. She said I can pack my parcel [bags] if I did not want to work for her.
“On the 13th of February this year, I had gone to my house. When I returned to work, Mrs Yengeni was there. She told me: ‘Your job is finished. Go take your things and go.’
“I was too shocked to argue and I went. I looked for transport for my stuff. When I returned, my stuff had been put in the garage.
“She has also not given me a reference and now I am unemployed. I am a very good caregiver to old people and I have much experience, so if anyone can offer me a job, I’m available,” said Dlephu.
She was not given time off for working extra hours, there were no deductions from her salary for the UIF and she was on call all night, every night
Several attempts to contact Yengeni failed. She did not respond to e-mails, phone calls or SMSes. The Sunday Times visited her home in the Cape Town suburb of Milnerton, but no one answered the doorbell.
Her ex-husband, Tony, said he was not aware of the case, but confirmed that it was indeed his mother who lived in the Gugulethu house. “I don’t know the day-to-day runnings at home, you must talk to Lumka,” he said.
In March last year, Lumka Yengeni slammed employers who did not comply with labour laws, saying they were guilty of exploiting workers.
She particularly criticised those who did not make contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund on behalf of their employees. “Employers and the rich exploit people without having to account for their transgressions. This is an area the UIF, despite improvements, needs to tighten.
“Despite their meagre salaries, domestic and farmworkers are still denied the benefits they are entitled to. These transgressions necessitate and validate the need for a strictly monitored national minimum wage once it has been implemented,” she said.
The DA and the EFF have called for Yengeni’s resignation from her committee post. DA labour spokesman in parliament Ian Ollis said Yengeni’s case “shows typical double standards of many senior ANC leaders”. The EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said Yengeni’s treatment of her employee showed she could not be trusted to “protect workers against labour brokers”.
At the CCMA, Dlephu’s lawyers argued that Yengeni breached labour legislation by, among other things, not supplying an employment contract or payslip and failing to grant leave.
Dlephu had to work on public holidays, but was not paid double for this. She was not given time off for working extra hours, there were no deductions from her salary for the UIF and she was on call all night, every night.
Dlephu had been promised an overall and work shoes, which were never provided. She was on duty 24 hours out of every 24 – and she was merely informed that her services were no longer required without being given a reason, the right to a hearing or any notice period.
ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa declined to comment, saying this was a domestic issue between Yengeni, her employee and the CCMA. When it was pointed out to him that it was the ANC that had deployed Yengeni to the labour committee, he referred the issue to ANC parliamentary spokesman Moloto Mothapo, who refused to comment because he was not familiar with the matter.