My vote cost me my job

Mynhardt Black (right) speaks to The Citizen whilst his wife Debbie feeds her ten month old baby, Giovanni, 14 May 2014, at his house in Brixton, Johannesburg. Mynhardt, a tow truck driver, was fired when he failed to show up to work on Election Day to go vote. Picture: Alaister Russell

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on May 15, 2014. 

All tow-truck driver Mynhart Black wanted to do was vote for a better life – instead he lost his job because he took time off to vote.

Yesterday, Black, 47, said that on the eve of the elections his boss at A1 Assist, Robbie De Freitas, refused to give him time off to vote.

But Black was determined to make his mark so he ignored his boss and took time off to cast his ballot – that decision to exercise his right to vote cost the tow-truck driver his job.

At least 18 million citizens voted last Wednesday.

“He (De Freitas) called me to say I must bring back his truck because I was now fired,” Black said angrily yesterday.

Black, who earns R1 300 a week and has a wife and four children, said he was upset by the turn of events.

Seated next to his wife in their modest Brixton home in Johannesburg, Black described the events leading up to the loss of his job.

“They called me to say I had to work, but I said I can’t work on the public holiday because I had to vote,” Black said.

Even though last Wednesday was declared a public holiday to allow eligible citizens to vote, Black said that his boss De Freitas had told him that he alone would decide who would be allowed to have time off.

“He likes to fire people, but this time he took on the wrong person – I’m a Dutchman, I’ll stand up for my rights,” said Black.

He was even more infuriated two days later when he discovered that his boss had withheld his wages.

Distraught and disappointed Black’s wife, Debbie, 40, said: “We need the money. I don’t see how people can be this cruel to just fire someone.”

Contacted for comment yesterday, De Freitas’s secretary who only identified herself as Bianca, initially said he could not respond because he was in a meeting.

Later De Freitas declined to comment, saying he was still in consultation with his lawyers.

But Black insisted the matter was far from over.

He has been advised by the Independent Electoral Commission to approach the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration for help with his situation.