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MBABANE – The Eswatini High Commissioner to South Africa Dumsile Sukati faces a union backlash after the commission terminated the contract of a driver who exposed her to the PAC.

The driver of the foreign office, Patrick Rambau, made damning allegations against the high commissioner when he was skyped by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in August last year. 

This was when the PAC was probing incidents that led to a government vehicle being involved in an accident in SA, resulting in high costs of repairs. 

Rambau, an official chauffeur of the high commissioner told the PAC that he was not driving the vehicle when it was involved in the accident, despite that diplomatic regulations state that the high commissioner must be chauffeured.

Allegations have been made that Rambau’s submission to the PAC is responsible for the termination of his work contract.

In the latest developments, the Union for the Local Employees in Missions Accredited to South Africa (ULEMASA) has written a letter to the high commissioner, giving her a seven day ultimatum to reinstate Rambau or face industrial action.

It said Rambau was a locally Recruited Personnel (LRP), which means he has to be dealt with according to the laws of the land in which he was recruited.

“We address this letter to you after our member has been victimised and demoted for testifying before the PAC committee. Recently, our member received a letter of dismissal effective October 31, 2020, and this is of consequence of the revelations made before the PAC and testifying about the true events of what happened preceding the accident and post (sic).”


The union further affirmed that Rambau, whom they addressed as an accused person in this matter, was not on the scene of the accident.

“Mr Rambau was instructed to drive Sukati to Eswatini and back to Pretoria as per the arrangement. On December 22, 2017, Sukati drove herself to Eswatini and returned January 10, 2018 where she got involved in an accident. When the accident occurred, Rambau was not driving the car..,” the union stated.

The union’s statement was in harmony with that made by Rambau when he appeared before the PAC. The union further put the PAC into perspective about the possibility that diplomatic laws were flouted in the case of Rambau’s termination of his working contract.


“The employment relationship between the Embassy and our member is governed by South African law as the ‘lex loci contractus’ (the law of the place where the employment contract has been concluded). As such, and in line with the international law obligation imposed by Article 41.1 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 (the convention) on all diplomats, the Embassy is obliged to respect the laws and regulations of the Republic of South Africa as the receiving state.”

They emphasised that this international convention had a bearing on South Africa in terms of the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act of 2001.

They then unequivocally stated that the High Commissioner had an obligation to respect South African laws including Section 23 of the South African Constitution, which guarantees Rambau the right to fair labour practices. Also cited in this case is the Labour Relations Act of 1995 which regulates an employee’s employment rights.


“The Embassy is hereby requested to withdraw the unlawful letter of dismissal issued to our member Patrick Rambau. Failure to adhere to our request within seven days from the date hereof, ULEMASA will have no other option but to refer a dispute to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for unfair dismissal,” reads part of the letter.

The letter was also copied to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO).

Meanwhile, the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee MP Phila Buthelezi confirmed receipt of the letter and said the committee would deal with it accordingly. “We will sit and decide what to do with the letter. For now there is not much we can say about it,” he said.

An international industrial law expert told this newspaper that the first port of call would be to ascertain the grounds upon which Rambau was relieved of his duties.

“If indeed, he was dismissed, there must have been a fair hearing based on SA laws. Every South African citizen employed in that country must be disciplined according to South African laws. 

“Before the high commissioner dismisses an employee, she has to touch base with the Principal Secretary of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, who has to endorse the decision to dismiss the employee. This process is necessary because, should there be an unfair dismissal case, it is the country that will be liable for the costs incurred,” the expert said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Thuli Dladla confirmed having been informed about the letter and said one of the important facts to be studied would be whether Rambau was dismissed or his contract was not renewed.

“What we have opted to do for now is to call the high commissioner and ask for all the employment contracts and relevant documentation regarding the employee. We will then take this to the attorney general and ask for his advice, after which we can have a comment on this. For now it is very difficult to say anything as we are still gathering information,” she said.

During Sukati’s last appearance before the PAC, she said Rambau usually drove at high speed  and  that on one occasion she opted to drive herself and asked him to take the back seat.

These statements were, however, refuted by Rambau, who said nothing of the sort ever happened.


During the question and answer session, the PAC accused the high commissioner of lying and even threatened to throw her in jail. This was after the submissions by Rambau had contradicted most of her statements.

The PAC had then resolved that the high commissioner and Rambau should go and forge good working relations. 

The car, a Mercedes Benz sustained damages whose cost of repairs was E576 000. This was after it was involved in an accident along the N4 Highway in South Africa on January 10, 2018.

The high commissioner is not new to controversy as in her previous deployment in London, she parted ways with her maid unceremoniously after the latter bitterly complained of having been unfairly treated.

ULEMASA is an independent organisation formed in terms of section 4(1) of the Labour Relations Act, 1995 by the local employees who are working in foreign missions and in international organisations accredited to the Republic of South Africa.

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