Labour Court judge, Justice Lawrence Masimba Murasi, recently gave the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) a 30-day ultimatum to pay its former general manager, radio programming, Allan Chiweshe, $308 898 in unpaid terminal benefits after upholding an arbitral award in his favour.
BY CHARLES LAITON
The application seeking confirmation of a draft ruling was filed by arbitrator Letwin Sigauke, in her official capacity, after making a determination that the national broadcaster had unlawfully dismissed Chiweshe and ought to have paid him compensation.
However, ZBC, through its lawyers, had opposed the application, saying the confirmation of the award should be stayed pending the resolution of a civil dispute pitting ZBC against its other ex-employees at the High Court.
But Justice Murasi declined to grant a stay of the proceedings, saying the two matters were clearly unrelated.
“The applicant (Sigauke) determined that the employee was entitled to be paid for the unexpired period of the contract. This was also a correct determination. I am of the firm view that the determination by the applicant cannot be faulted in any way . . . Respondent (ZBC) be and is hereby ordered to comply with the ruling with effect from thirty days from the date of this order (April 7, 2017),” Justice Murasi said in granting the application and confirming the ruling.
He also said it was clear from the submissions made that ZBC was again relying on the defence of set-off, claiming Chiweshe owed it vast sums of money (over $1 million) which it had not yet recovered from him.
“It is indeed a sad situation where a huge corporation in respondent’s position can make allegations against an employee (Chiweshe) and fail to produce an iota of evidence proving this simple issue of set-off. It is trite that in civil litigation, the rule is that a party who alleges must prove. Thus, if a litigant fails to discharge this onus, a court or tribunal cannot discharge the onus for them,” Justice Murasi said.
According to court papers, Chiweshe was dismissed in November 2014 on allegations of misconduct.
In a subsequent hearing, the hearing officer determined that the procedure which the ZBC had adopted in dismissing him was incorrect and, as such, the proceedings should start afresh.
Following the hearing officer’s determination, ZBC is said to have reinstated and again suspended Chiweshe on the same day, being March 10, 2015.
“The letter of suspension referred to certain acts of misconduct which had been raised against the employee (Chiweshe). This letter of suspension was not followed by any hearing as expected. It was followed by a letter dated August 6, 2015, which informed the employee that his contract of employment was being terminated on notice,” the judge said.