Nebula have bullied many employees – Here’s another one

Nic <> 11 September 2012 11:38 PM To: ‘Paul’ <>
RE: CCMA with Nebula


Hi ….herewith my story!

Although I have never been a permanent employee of Nebula, my recurring contract with them, for a period of 3.5 years, was(is) deemed to have the same value as a permanent contract with them. My outstanding fees were also unilaterally decreased, and I received about a third of what they owed me in May 2010. My six month contract of Sep 2006 just kept on being renewed based on requests by Nebula to assist them with a variety of initiatives – all of them based on my initiation of these matters.

Whilst I was busy negotiating a JV with Nebula over the period Mar 2010-May 2010, I received an abrupt and surprising notification from Nebula that my services are no longer required. At this time I had provided a JV business plan, and we had a draft contract under discussion for the JV to operate in the Telco market. My immediate reaction was to notify them that I will seek legal advice prior to response, and at the same time register the case with the CCMA.

This sparked a comedy of harassment activities by them:

  • I was summoned in writing to a disciplinary hearing, citing the most ludicrous charges. – I declined the “invite” as I was not a permanent employee, and legal advice indicated that by attending this “hearing” I’d be admitting to the charges having merit, and that I view myself as subject to Nebula’s employment policies and practices.
  • As a result of the above not working for them, Nebula proceeded to attempt obtaining an “urgent supreme court interdict” against me “operating in unlawful competition” with them.
  • Their “case” was that I was associated with Telfree (I am a value added reseller) – a virtual telecom carrier – and that Telfree was a direct competitor to them. – My response, supported by a Telfree affidavit blew this out of the water, in that Telfree sells technology solutions and Nebula (being supplier and technology agnostic) sells an advisory consulting service. The analogy being that if Telfree was a “competitor”, so would Telkom, MTN, Vodacom, Cell C, etc be – which of course is ludicrous.
  • Hereafter they challenged Telfree directly, and of course in the process making a dog and pony show at trying to discredit me, reaching the levels of “IP theft” and a variety of equally unfounded allegations. – Telfree discounted them with extreme disdain and made it clear that it will do business with whomever it seems fit and that should Nebula continue along this course, Telfree will act in its own interest against Nebula.
  • This added further fuel to the fire. In their responses they continued to try and “threaten” me at what could happen to me if found “guilty”, and that their case is so strong that neither the supreme court nor the CCMA will entertain my case.The results were as follows:
  • They did not feel strong enough to face my response to their summons and allegations in the first supreme court hearing, hence they asked for a postponement of the case.
  • They did not pitch at the first CCMA session. Supposedly because D.M.Nel was overseas – of which no proof was provided to me at the time.
  • They lodged a second response to the supreme court, now citing immaterial “dirty washing” type of matters to try and strengthen the case – also “offering” to “settle” if I was willing to drop the CCMA case. They seemed petrified at the CCMA case for some reason.
  • I did neither.
  • The case went to the supreme court for the second hearing, and on the same morning they offered to settle. Practically on the steps of the court. They would pay my damages and legal fees, as well as issue a communiqué to everyone involved as to the “amicable settlement” of the matter – provided I drop the CCMA case.
  • I accepted the offer – they paid and I was happy.

I am also aware that they have used the same attempted “scare tactics” with a number of people that resigned from Nebula. Some bit the bullet and went through with their plans, and some, sad as it may seem, ran scared of protracted legal entanglement and remained with the company. Nebula appears to have a culture of “rule by fear”, fuelled by a philosophy that the whole world is their competition and no one can work for any other company but Nebula. This paranoia in my view is deeply rooted in the CEO’s personal make-up, and will not change so long as the belief exists that their outdated and rather flimsy product offering is “state of the art”. In fact what Nebula offers, can be procured from many other companies with a much more sophisticated and professional offering.



The Errol Hendricks Unfair Dismissal

In April 2012, The management team of OneNebula (Pty) Ltd successfully fired its non-white IT technician. The only reason they fired him was because the company was in a serious dilemma with its internal IT management and it needed more staff.

Nebula had made a massive financial loss the previous year so employing more employees was out of the question. The solution was to outsource its IT operations to a company called NETSURIT. This way the company would pay slightly more than the R10,000 per month they were paying Hendricks, but NETSURIT would provide skilled technicians in accordance with what Nebula needed.

In all of its disciplinary enquiries, Nebula makes use of an external labour consultant named Fatima van Toorn. If the company wants a dismissal of any employee, then van Toorn makes sure that they get their dismissal; she also makes sure the dismissal is so solid that no claims of unfair dismissal will succeed at the CCMA. This is achieved by throwing the book at the employee. van Toorn adds whatever petty rubbish she can to add to “severity” of the so called offenses.

The offenses that Hendricks was alleged to have committed and subsequently found guilty of are the following:

  1. Contravention of the Company’s policy on computer use and e-mail including using/misusing Company computers/networks to download material in that it is alleged that you used the Company’s IT infrastructure to download, store and transport movies and unauthorized software for personal benefit on 13/04/12 — 16/04/12 which is in violation of the Company’s IT governance policy.
  2. Failure to comply with prescribed and established Company procedures, policy, regulations, which failure has serious or potentially serious consequences. It is alleged that you have previously been admonished to refrain from downloading any movies or unauthorized software for personal use, yet it is alleged that you elected to download movies and unauthorized software for personal benefit over the period described above.
  3. Gross dishonesty in that it is alleged that you claimed that he needed to swop the back-up device(s) on 16/04/12; however you went offsite to obtain the data that you had downloaded.
  4. Installation of various computer games on your company computer (Beast) as well as on a virtual machine resident on your company computer.
  5. Playing the above mentioned games in the presence of other staff on your company computer while at your primary work location.
  6. Unauthorized / unwarranted absence from the work place or work station for part of a working day on 16/04/12 as a result of allegation 3
  7. Failure to contact your superior within 1 hour of your work day commencing to advise of your intended absence on 18/04/12.
  8. Breach of trust/breach of employee’s duty of good faith as a result of the allegations 1-4.


Charges 1 and 2: Paul Tzanos had been micromanaging Hendricks for months (aka bullying and harassing) and so when Hendriks was confronted by Tzanos in a very aggressive manner, Hendricks was afraid and so lied about where he had wasn’t so much that Hendricks needed to lie about his actions, but he was not sure if other would get into trouble too. Hansen had after all TOLD Hendricks to go to the data center, but Hendricks had no idea if Hansen was allowed to ask him to go. Hendricks just kept quiet and said he went to the data center to do something that he didn’t really do.

Charge 3: Hendricks went to the data center on the instruction of a senior software developer, Paul Hansen.

Charge 4: This charge is exceptionally funny. Hendricks was charged because he had computer games installed on his work PC. If this was a truly an offence, every single Windows user should be called into a disciplinary hearing at Nebula because every single windows operating system is shipped with games on them. Oh, but those games don’t really count. Lets say it was other games, first person shooter or something similar. If so, then why was Cornel Dannhauser not called in for a disciplinary? He had games on his work PC , he even had games and pirated software on a company laptop which he was using without permission AND that laptop had all kinds of illegal software on it. What about the current Chief Operating Officer, Jacques van Zyl? He has numerous games installed on his company laptop. What about Danie Nel, the CEO. His company issued iPad is jailbroken and allows all kinds of pirated software to be installed bypassing the Apple App store. If that isn’t piracy, then nothing is!

So the lesson here is that when you need to get rid of someone, you throw shit at the person and hope that all the shit sticks. That’s exactly what they did to Hendricks in throwing all these charges at him. As you can see, it was obviously by design.

Charge 5: Hendricks was not only charged for installing games, he was also charged with playing the games that were installed on his PC. Even if he were playing those games after hours or during lunch breaks, it would not have mattered. The interesting thing about these charges is that Hendricks had installed and played these games since he was hired in 2010. Why fling this shit at him now? Why not raise the issue when it happened in 2010? Simple reason really, Nebula needed him in 2010 but in 2012 a newly contracted IT outsource company were on their way, Hendricks was simply not needed anymore.

Charge 6: Hendricks was the only person officially authorised to go to the Hetzner data center. The data center is like an extension of Nebula’s business premises because all the companies servers are hosted there. In fat, it was part of his JOB to go to the data center. Exactly how going to the data center can be seen as unauthorised absence is utterly bizarre. It was not like he went to Canal Walk for shopping. Besides, it could not have been unauthorised absence because Paul Hansen had asked Hendricks to go  and since Hansen was more senior than Hendricks, it was an instruction given to a junior employee. Why not charge Hansen for sending a junior employee to place he was not authorised to go? Nobody knew exactly why the company decided to ignore the fact that Hansen instructed Hendricks to go to the data centre, one can only assume that it was convenient to exclude this fact so that van Toorn could bring a successful dismissal without any possibility of it being challenged.

One of the rules at Nebula is that employees have to contact their manager if they are going to be absent for any reason. Would anyone willingly contact a mean-spirited, bullying asshole like Tzanos only to tell him the bully that you are too stressed to come to work. It would be a pointless exercise.

Just complete and utter rubbish designed to add dread and dire flavoring to the alleged charges… and to ensure that there can be no other result to the hearing other than to dismiss Errol Hendricks. And he was fired successfully. A job well done!

Timesheet Fraud Dismissal

Note: The Nebula employee previously named in this article has asked that his name to be removed. We have used his initials instead.

DS was fired from OneNebula (Pty) Ltd in May 2012, primarily because he had allocated incorrect billable time on his timesheet.

S had apparently included travel time for meetings when he should have allocated travel time as a separate item on the timesheet software, but none of the staff had been told this.

Continuing with the success of Errol Hendricks dismissal, Nebula turned its attention to the next employee who had deemed  himself worthy of making the list of redundant employees in terms of the Alignment Program, a program designed to “get rid of unwanted employees” without expenses or restriction imposed by South African labour law. Firing employees for arbitary reason was deemed the most cost effective manner of carrying out the objectives of the Alignment Program.

DS was employed at Nebula as a senior consultant and he been with the company for approximately 12 or 13 years. D is married with 2 young children, one of which is a very young baby. D is the bread winner for his family, his income the only income the family received. Despite this, Nebula management decided that since the consulting division of the company was suffering losses as a result of poor management, DS had to go. D was the last of the senior consultants working at Nebula.

The Paul Hansen Saga

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.