Judge orders mine to make severance payment

Worker fired using derogatory term

19 October 2020 | Crime

Swakopmund • Erwin Leuschner

In his High Court ruling Judge Thomas Masuku came to the conclusion that Swakop Uranium, which operates the Husab uranium mine, will have to pay Cyrill Möller compensation of N$720 000 if he is reinstated. If he does not take up his post again, the company has to pay him N$960 000.

At the centre of the legal dispute are the words “Ching Chong Pang”, which Möller had used in an internal email. In the judgment Masuku stated that Swakop Uranium is a predominantly Chinese company and a subsidiary of China Guandong Nuclear Power Holding Corporation, based in Beijing, China.

On 31 August 2017, Kevin Duan, an employee in Beijing, reportedly sent an email to several staff members - including Möller. The content was in Mandarin. Möller, who held the position of technical coordinator: training, engineering and maintenance, replied: “I am not Chinese. Who are you?”

Duan replied, explaining that the email was sent by accident and that Swakop Uranium employees were not affected. Möller responded with the words “Ching Chong Pang”.

The company described these words as racist and derogatory since some English speakers used this term to mock Chinese people. Disciplinary proceedings were therefore been initiated and although Möller stated that he had not reacted maliciously, he was relieved from duty.

Möller then took his case to the labour court, which ruled in his favour. Accordingly, Swakop Uranium had been ordered to reinstate him and / or to pay the aforementioned severance payment.

Swakop Uranium appealed against this decision in the High Court.

“The only problem that creates a serious issue is the fact that the complainant (Swakop Uranium) did not provide evidence during the disciplinary process that the term used is as alleged to be racist or derogatory to people of Chinese origin,” Masuku said, adding that “apparently some employees felt aggrieved by the words, but no one asked to present such evidence during the disciplinary proceedings.”

The judge therefore came to the same conclusion as the labour court and the disciplinary procedure was incorrect, and thus ruled in Möller’s favour.

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