Sunday 18 March 2018

SA embassy claims it has immunity in 'slave labour' dispute case

Thobeka Diamini
Thobeka Diamini
Adam Cullen

Adam Cullen

South Africa's Irish Embassy has claimed diplomatic immunity at an employment appeals hearing over 'slave labour' allegations involving a former diplomat and her ex-housekeeper.

The embassy faced the tribunal as a co-defendant in Dublin yesterday along with its former charges d'affaires, Thobeka Dlamini and her husband Coy.

The couple's former domestic worker, Senelisiwe Buthelezi, claims she was paid the equivalent of just €1.66 per hour and was forced to work 18 hours a day in their Dublin home.

Ms Buthelezi says she was dismissed without notice when she was too sick to work, being made homeless in the process as she lived at the couple's home.

Mr and Mrs Dlamini were not present at the hearing which heard they had left the country a number of days after a formal complaint had been made.

Ms Dlamini is now working in Senegal. There was no counsel present for her or her husband.

Counsel for the embassy, Tom Mallon, claimed the "Embassy of South Africa has no case to answer due to diplomatic immunity".

He also stated that Ms Buthelezi was never directly employed by the embassy and said that she had signed a contract directly with the Dlaminis in South Africa before moving to Ireland in 2012. He added that the case falls under the jurisdiction of the South African Republic.

Tribunal chair Peter O'Leary adjourned the case until a number of other issues surrounding Ms Buthelezi claims were heard by the rights commission.

When the 'slave labour' claims emerged last year, Ms Dlamini denied she had forced anyone to work so many hours.

She also refused to clarify exactly how much had been paid to the domestic worker, only stating it was "more than three times" what she had earned in her native South Africa.

Virginia Petrauskaite of the Migrants Rights Centre, which is supporting Ms Buthelezi in her action, said it would "continue to fight for justice".

Irish Independent

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