By Daniel Nemukuyu
The Sheriff of the High Court has been instructed to attach property belonging to the Nelson Chamisa-led faction of the MDC party over labour damages amounting to $264 000 it owes to its former director general Mr Toendepi Shonhe.
MDC unfairly dismissed 17 employees, including Mr Shonhe, from work and the Labour Court confirmed an arbitral award compelling the party to pay damages to the 17 workers.
Last week, Mr Shonhe obtained a writ of execution which empowers and directs the Sheriff to attach property.
The property, according to the writ, should be attached from the party’s headquarters at Harvest House in Harare.
The writ reads: “You (Sheriff) are required and directed to attach and take into execution the movable goods of the Movement for Democratic Change (Tsvangirai) 44 Nelson Mandela Avenue, Harare, the above mentioned respondent of the same to be realised the sum of US$264 444 together with cost of suit for the above-named applicant Toendepi Shonhe, which he recovered by a court order of this court on the 20th day of July 2017 granted by this honourable court in the above mentioned suit.”
MDC owes the 17 workers a total of $665 000, but the writ is in respect of Mr Shonhe’s $264 444.
Mr Shonhe and 16 others were fired in 2014 on allegations that they were linked to Mr Tendai Biti’s Renewal Team.
An independent arbitrator in 2015, ordered the reinstatement of the 17, but the opposition party found it impossible to rehire them.
The workers, through their lawyers, Matsikidze & Mucheche Legal Practitioners, claimed damages which were subsequently quantified.
Each of the 17 were awarded damages ranging from $10 140 to $264 444.
An attempt by the 17 to attach and auction the party’s property was put on hold by the High Court pending determination of the Labour Court appeal.
Justice Chidziva ordered MDC-T to pay legal costs associated with the matter.
“It is ordered that the appeal be and is hereby struck off the roll by reason of the notice of appeal being defective,” she said. “Appellant to pay respondents’ costs.”
In 2015, an arbitrator ruled that the dismissal of the 17 was unlawful and that it amounted to unfair labour practice on the part of the “labour party”.
The 17 were employed by MDC-T in various capacities with some working in the security, international relations, directorate and national organising sections of the political party.
The labour dispute arose in May 2014, when factionalism and political violence rocked MDC-T.
Harvest House, where the 17 operated from, literally became a no-go area as all officials believed to be aligned to Mr Biti and Mr Elton Mangoma were being attacked.
It was also the workers’ claim that the party was also no longer paying them at the time.
When the workers were fired, no disciplinary proceedings were conducted.
The workers then claimed their bonuses for 2013 and salary arrears for the time when they were on an unlawful dismissal.
However, MDC dismissed as false the claims that the situation at Harvest House was intimidating at the time in question.
The party added that its then acting secretary-general, Dr Tapiwa Mashakada, once wrote to the workers asking them to return to work, but they refused.
The opposition party argued that the actions of the workers amounted to voluntary resignation and that the party could not constructively dismiss them.
The party, instead, wanted the workers to pay it sums amounting to three months’ salary for each employee as compensation for “resigning without notice”.