Whistleblower Dismissal: Understanding Legal Remedies in South Africa’s Labour Landscape

Unpacking the case of Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and Others v Ngoye and Others


Martha Ngoye, a former legal executive at South Africa’s state-owned Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), found herself at the centre of a legal battle after exposing unlawful government contracts. Despite being terminated unlawfully, Ngoye and her colleagues faced challenges in their quest for reinstatement. Their case sheds light on the complexities whistleblowers encounter in South Africa’s legal landscape.

Summary of Facts:

Martha Ngoye and two other executives were terminated by Prasa in 2021. The Labour Court initially ruled their terminations unlawful, but Prasa won an appeal to the Labour Appeal Court (LAC). The LAC’s judgment delved into the employees’ argument of contractual breach, referencing previous legal precedents. It outlined the employees’ right to choose between pursuing unfair dismissal claims or alleging breach of contract.

Court’s Rationale and Findings:

In its judgment, the Labour Appeal Court emphasized the employees’ option to pursue either unfair dismissal claims under the Labour Relations Act (LRA) or claims of contractual breach. Despite the Labour Court’s earlier ruling in favour of reinstatement, Prasa succeeded in its appeal to the Labour Appeal Court. The LAC referenced previous legal precedents and highlighted the discretionary nature of specific performance as a remedy for contractual breaches. It pointed out factors to consider in determining whether reinstatement is appropriate, including workplace dynamics and the need for the employees’ services.


The case underscores the dilemma faced by whistleblowers in navigating legal avenues for reinstatement. While the LRA offers protections against unfair dismissal, employees may opt for contractual remedies, such as specific performance, in cases of an alleged breach of contract. However, the discretion involved in granting such remedies poses challenges for employees seeking reinstatement. Employers must be prepared to defend against either route chosen by former employees, while employees must carefully consider the requirements and risks associated with each legal option.

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