A SOWETO woman says she has been left traumatised after petroleum giant BP Southern Africa fired her for allegedly being too fat.

Phumzile Mndebele told Sunday World that the company also exposed her medical files to a disciplinary hearing panel without her consent.


BP spokeswoman Karen Byamugisha said the company does not comment on employment matters.

Particularly as this has now been referred to the National Bargaining Council for the Chemical Industry,” said Byamugisha.

Mndebele (38) said her dismissal follows an incapacity inquiry held on December 14 last year which found her incapable to perform her duties as a flight fuelling operator at O.R Tambo International Airport, due to her weight.

I started to work for BP in January 2012. I was told to go to an occupational therapist in Benoni towards the end of 2012. I was never informed why I must go see an OT. When I got there I asked the doctor what I was there for and he told me that my company asked him to evaluate me and see if I can work there,” said Mndebele


She said the multinational company told her to hire a dietician and a personal trainer.

I was forced to pay for the services of these people from my own pocket because I wanted to keep my job. I still see a personal trainer from Virgin Active Maponya Mall. We do all types of exercises just to help me lose weight.
When they dismissed me they never considered any reports from my dietician and personal trainer about my progress. I shed some weight since I started these programmes. I lost about 5kg and I now weigh 140kg. All this just to accept discrimination against my body, said Mndebele.

The mother of two said her weight was never an issue during her job interview and she was never informed about any company policies regarding weight.

When I asked them why they hired me if they had a problem with my weight, they told me that my medicals were supposed to arrive in December 2011 but arrived in 2012. What angers me is the fact that they said nothing concerning my weight until 2014,” she said.

Mndebele said it was difficult to cope without her job as she stays in a one-roomed backyard shack in Meadowlands with her two kids and husband.

I wish I can sue BP for putting me through all this. But I don’t have the money to do so. My husband earns R3 500 per month.

I am not coping at all and feel very dirty. I was reporting to work and being told not to touch any work for the whole of last year. Some managers were no longer greeting me.”

Her dietician, Dr Dodo Motsatsi, confirmed that Mndebele was his patient but did not give details of her medicals for professional reasons.

Rhulani Shirinda, Mndebele’s personal trainer, said: I can confirm that she is currently my client and I have been training with her for almost six months now. We do various activities to help her reach her goals

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