By Innocent Ruwende
Harare City Council has resolved to negotiate and agree on the applicable damages in lieu of reinstatement of a former finance director who was awarded labour damages amounting to $760 000 by a labour officer.
This follows a ruling by the Supreme Court dismissing an application for leave to appeal to the superior court against the labour officer’s ruling.
Mr Justin Mandizha, who was employed by council as finance director, was unlawfully dismissed from work and a labour officer ordered his reinstatement or payment of damages.
The Labour Court confirmed the labour officer’s decision, resulting in the local authority seeking permission to appeal the decision at the Supreme Court.
According to the recent minutes of the Human Resources and General Purposes Committee, acting chamber secretary Mr Charles Kandemiri recommended noting of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“The acting chamber secretary reported that council’s applications for leave to appeal against the labour officer’s ruling to the Labour Court and to the Supreme Court respectively, had been dismissed by both courts as detailed in the report,” reads the minutes.
“Council’s external lawyers had accordingly recommended payment of damages in lieu of reinstatement.”
Following discussions, the committee resolved to note the two rulings and that upon noting recommendation, council authorises the acting town clerk to negotiate and agree on the applicable damages in lieu of reinstatement of Mr Mandizha.
Labour Court judge Justice Lawrence Murasi ruled that council had no prospects of success on appeal.
He dismissed the application for leave to appeal with costs.
“It is my view that the Supreme Court is unlikely to find favour with applicant’s interpretation of the provision,” said Justice Murasi.
“Thus, there are no prospects of success on the two grounds of appeal. In the circumstances, I am of the view that the application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court is devoid of merit. It is accordingly, dismissed with costs.”
On May 18, 2016, Harare City Council wrote to Mr Mandizha terminating his contract of employment.
The following day, Mr Mandizha responded, seeking clarification of the reasons for dismissal.
Mr Mandizha, irked by the conduct of his employer, took the matter to a labour officer, who ruled in his favour.
He was reportedly fired for failing to steer the city out of debt and not doing enough to reduce ballooning salary arrears.
But he argued that his dismissal was unlawful on the basis that no proper assessment or evaluation of his contract of employment was done.
He said the compensation should be $760 000 and other benefits.
Mr Mandizha joined Harare City Council in 2015, after a short stint with Cashflow Solutions (Pvt) Limited.
He worked with the United Nations World Food Programme and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation before landing the council post.