The Department of Trade and Industry has effectively fired the National Consumer Commissioner (NCC), Ms. Mamodupi Mohlala, through an advert in the newspapers.
Ms Mohlala reportedly saw an advertisement for her own job in last week’s Sunday newspapers. It is unacceptable that the head of a key government entity would discover her removal from her position through a newspaper advertisement.
She is now reportedly taking the Department to Court over what seems to be a clear breach of her contract.
This incident begs several questions. Why is the Commissioner being fired in the first place? In the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) view, the Commissioner has been an eager and effective advocate for consumer rights, with a small budget, to find and prosecute those companies that do not respect the rights of consumers. The portfolio committee on trade and industry has received no information that would suggest Ms Mohlala deserves to be fired. One wonders whether the Commissioner is being fired for being “too active” for the Department of Trade and Industry’s liking, and for challenging the department over the insufficient budget allocation her office receives.
The manner in which this has been handled is obviously unacceptable, and likely represents a breach of our labour legislation. It is also indicative of a dysfunctional and hostile relationship between the Commission and the Minister of Trade and Industry. I will therefore be submitting a set of questions to the Minister of Trade and Industry to ask:
Why the National Consumer Commissioner is being removed from her office?
Why the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry was never briefed on this matter?
Why the National Consumer Commissioner was not properly informed of the decision to remove her?
Whether any breaches of labour legislation have in fact occurred in this process?
A spat between the NCC and the Department of Trade and Industry will not be constructive for either entity. The only people who will lose out in this battle will be ordinary consumers, who have so far benefited from Ms. Mohlala’s tenure as Commissioner. We need a functioning NCC to protect the rights of consumers.