This is the story of how a company called OneNebula (Pty) Ltd have destroyed the life of one its most valued employees.
Paul Hansen was an employee of the company from August 2011 until he walked out in June 2012. The final straw for Hansen was when the CEO (Danie Nel) threatened him on Tuesday 19 June 2012, after he had approached the CEO in a desperate attempt to resolve issues within the company. Instead of listening to Hansen and attempting to resolve the problems, Danie Nel joined in on the fun and games of messing with peoples lives that had started two months earlier with Errol Hendricks and DS.
Paul Tzanos, the financial manager of Nebula, was the main instigator. He masterminded a program called the Alignment Program. Essentially, this program was implemented to cut costs and company overhead. The deficit between income and expenses were extreme as a result of burgeoning expenses incurred by a small company with an identity crisis – you see, Nebula thinks its a large company like its clients, and years of delusion have resulted in incurring expenses beyond what it could afford.
Paul Nicholas Tzanos is a slimy, weasel-like and cunning man. He offered a solution to these expenses which would rapidly increase profit. It was simple really, dismissal of employees whose functions can be replced by cheaper empyees or outsourced services. Dismissal is cheaper and more cost effective than retrenchment and when you have a labour consultant like Fatima van Toorn in your pocket, it really becomes simple game.
So began the Alignment Program. A ruthless vendetta against employees who asks too many questions, fights for what is right and refuses to bow to management bullying.
Paul Hansen was one of these employees, always questioning bad and ineffective management. Blatant issues like the use of unlicensed software (SharePoint) and the lack of appropriate licensing for its Microsoft databases, Hansen demanded that the company immediately rectify the problems and that management puts a stop to exploiting IT staff. He stood up for and supported employees actively being bullied by various managers. Paul Hansen’s determination to ensure his fellow employees are treated with dignity and respect made him their number one target.
Hansen walked out of the company citing management harassment and threats of dismissal. Tzanos threatened to take an interdict against Hansen after he innocently requested time to compile a grievance against his immediate manager for setting him up for dismissal. Izelle van der Westhuizen clumsily altered data in a bid to force Paul Hansen into making a mistake in his analysis work. Unfortunately for her, Hansen saw through her efforts.
The threats and intimidation from Tzanos and Nel of dismissal, investigation of his work, threats of interdicts, verbal abuse on the telephone and not being able to work without being afraid of being setup for a dismissal finally prompted Hansen to leave Nebula with immediate effect.
On 21 June 2012 Hansen informed management that he was no longer an employee of the company and in September 2012 he approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to receive payment that was due to him. He had tried to avoid going to the CCMA but the Nebula managers refused to meet with him in an attempt Hansen had made to reconcile differences. It was at the CCMA in September 2012 that numerous emails from his Gmail account were produced.
At the CCMA it was discovered that Nebula had hacked into Paul Hansen’s private email account and then proceeded to use private emails to justify their abusive activities in the workplace. Nebula and their attorneys claimed that Hansen was trying to defraud them by working for multiple companies at the same time. While Hansen did have multiple work contracts – these were with the consent of the the CEO of Nebula, Danie Nel.
Nebula’s legal representatives justified access to Hansen’s Gmail by claiming that Hansen’s employment contract allowed for the interception. The employment contract contained a clause that stated that the CEO may intercept business and private email accounts.
Paul Hansen is family man who works for a living to provide for his family in Cape Town. He has no family trust fund with millions available to fight a company in court. But when faced with the reality that your privacy has been severely breached, what action does a normal person need to take to protect himself and his family? Hansen had never been faced with the possibility that private emails would one day be read by someone other the intended recipients. In fact, nobody should faced with this. In South Africa, we have constitutional rights protecting our communications, but our constitution means little to OneNebula and Werksmans Attorneys. If you are an employee of Nebula, you would be wise to consider this, and then reconsider your employer. OneNebula is not a great place to work.
The emails that were intercepted by Nebula contained private emails between Hansen and his wife, emails between himself and clients and business partners. These were personal emails between family members expressing stories of joy and those of anger, happiness and absolute dismay. (This section has been edited and sensitive personal information has been removed on request.)
Then, in a mean-spirited and malicious bid to “outsmart” Hansen, the management of OneNebula made the decision to find all emails that they could use, they twisted the context of his words and used his own emails against him. Nebula made sure he had no chance of success in his quest to claim compensation that was rightfully his. The management of OneNebula desperately needed to win against Paul Hansen at the CCMA, to avoid other employees from doing the same.
Perhaps what Paul Hansen did in his attempt to resolve the situation was wrong and fueled by emotion. Irrespective, he tried to resolve the matter amiably but the door of reconciliation was literally slammed shut in his face. He informed Nebula management via email that according to the South African Police Service, by intercepting the Gmail account, Nebula had committed a crime.
Hansen laid criminal charges against OneNebula. After criminal charges were brought against Nebula, he also stated via email that he intended to expose what had taken place in the media… unless Nebula management reveal the manner and extent of interception of his emails. There was evidence on Hansen’s home computer that a malicious remote access tool (RAT) had been installed on his PC and he needed to understand who was monitoring and controlling it.
The management of Nebula responded to this threat by approaching to Western Cape High Court for an interdict to prevent Hansen from saying that Nebula had hacked into his emails. The burden of proving that it was Nebula who had installed the malicious software was something that Hansen’s attorneys advised him against. The simple fact of the matter was that Hansen could not afford the costs of a trial with expert witness testimony.
The court’s response was to grant the interdict required to Nebula, and since he could not prove that Nebula had breached his privacy, the court dismissed Hansen’s counter claim for breach of privacy. The court also dismissed Hansen’s appeal.
Hansen paid in excess of R150,000,00 for legal representation. The court awarded legal costs to Nebula resulting in Werksmans Attorneys claiming an amount of R350 000 from Paul Hansen for their costs. That means that R500 000 was spent on lawyers all because Paul Hansen refused to allow a couple of bullies to get away with their cowardly acts.
In summary, Paul Hansen walked out of an oppressive place of employment, a workplace that had become desperate to cut costs and reduce overhead at the expense of the people who worked there.
The price Paul Hansen had to pay to protect his privacy in the courts of South Africa is an amount no average individual could possibly pay. Hansen has essentially been ordered by the courts of South Africa to pay for the rights of some pathetic person at Nebula to access and read his private emails, emails dating back to 2005, containing highly private, personal family related information. Nebula and their powerful and mighty attorneys have bullied and harassed Hansen to the full extent that they legally could. And the justice system stood by and allowed this to happen.
All the information relating to the activities of Nebula and Werksmans Attorneys will be uploaded to this website in the coming weeks. We have recently acquired damning evidence of collusion and fraud by Nebula executive management.
This evidence will be published once we have protected the identities of those who have provided the information to us.