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‘In removing the Registrar of Labour Relations from his position, the Minister of Labour has exceeded her powers’, says Gerhard Papenfus, Chief Executive of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA). Mr Crouse has occupied the position of the Registrar of Labour Relations since 2004.

Papenfus was responding to news reports that the Minister of Labour has stripped the Registrar of Labour Relations of his powers following his refusal to stop proceedings in the Labour Court involving the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union (CEPPWAWU).

‘The Registrar of Labour Relations is a legislative regulated appointment. The empowering legislation, in terms of which he is appointed, for good reason, prescribes that he has to execute his duties on the basis of his objective judgement, based on the facts before him, without any intervention. The Legislator clearly intended the Registrar himself to exercise the powers assigned to him and to perform the functions of the Registrar independently. The judicial independence of the Registrar of Labour Relations is fundamental to the neutral exercising of the administrative and substantive powers assigned to him.

The Minister of Labour should know that she cannot instruct the Registrar on how to execute his duties. That would be unlawful. Should the Registrar adhere to instructions by the Minister, his actions will be susceptible to judicial review. The Registrar cannot withdraw actions in the Labour Court merely on the basis that the Minister has told him to do so. The Minister’s interference transgresses the basic principle that the responsibility to exercise the discretionary powers of the Registrar rests with the Registrar, and most certainly not with her.

Over a number of years the Registrar has cancelled the registration of hundreds of organisations. I’m not aware of a single occasion where the Minister has even attempted to interfere.

In respect of COSATU’s allegation that this Registrar has a political agenda against the Federation, I challenge COSATU to make public any information to substantiate these allegations and then to allow the now ousted Registrar an opportunity to publicly respond to that.

‘To what extent was the Minister’s decision motivated by COSATU’s recent resolution that Mr Crouse be removed as Registrar? Have labour relations in South Africa now also entered a new phase where the Registrar of Labour Relations will be used to further a political agenda?’, Papenfus asked.

‘It seems as if the Minister might have removed the Registrar with an ulterior motive. If that’s the case, which it appears to be, it serves as further proof of the slippery path upon which South Africa finds itself. The latest action by the Minister of Labour is just another step towards government’s constant dismantling of independent institutions for the furtherance of its own agenda’, Papenfus said.