Former CEO takes Cape Chamber of Commerce to CCMA

Ruben Richards. Ruben Richards.

The former Cape Chamber of Commerce CEO and former deputy director-general of the Scorpions, Ruben Richards, is seeking to be reinstated to his position as CEO of the chamber and has approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to challenge a controversial decision to axe him.

The CCMA hearing is scheduled for Friday. Dr Richards was appointed in May as the chamber’s first CEO after it was reconstituted as a nonprofit company.

Cape Chamber president Janine Myburgh announced last month during the chamber’s annual general meeting that Dr Richards had left the organisation. She said Charles Scheltema would be caretaker CEO. Ms Myburgh said Dr Richards was on probation from the time he was appointed in May and that the board had decided that he "was not the right fit."

The decision to fire Dr Richards is said to have divided the chamber’s board and led to the resignation of at least three board members, sparking fears within the business community in Cape Town that the chamber’s operations could be paralysed. The Cape Chamber provides members in business with crucial information, training, business opportunities and representation, among other things.Dr Richards told Business Day on Monday that he was confident that he would be reinstated and the CCMA would find that his dismissal was unfair.

"Reinstatement is the outcome I am seeking…I am an eternal optimist," Dr Richards said.

Dr Richards stated that the decision to fire him was abrupt and he was not given any notice.

"One could say it was abrupt and it is not clear why I was fired," Dr Richards said. He said he was made aware of an intention to fire him on October 29 and was told to vacate his office the next morning.

Gordon Metter, one of the board members who resigned last month told Business Day recently that Dr Richards had been unfairly treated. "I resigned as a director because I had lost confidence in the president and because of the treatment of the CEO," Mr Metter said.

Ms Myburgh said on Monday that the chamber could not comment on the decision by Dr Richards to approach the CCMA. "As Dr Richards knows, the process includes conciliation. It would be unfair to the parties, and indeed the process itself, to comment on it ahead of time," Ms Myburgh said.

She also confirmed that three board members had resigned.

"We can confirm that there have been three resignations from the board. Resignations happen on boards from time to time".



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