By Farai Matiashe
OVER 400 former Grain Marketing Board (GMB) employees, retrenched four years ago, have approached the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) complaining over the alleged unprofessional handling of their case by labour lawyer Munyaradzi Gwisai.
Gwisai of Munyaradzi Gwisai and Partners Legal Practitioners represented Stephen Machaya and over 400 other workers, who were laid off by the parastatal in 2015 on three months’ notice. The terminations followed a Supreme Court ruling which gave employers the right to terminate workers’ contracts under such conditions.
In a letter addressed to LSZ, the workers said: “We secured his legal services in our case against our former employer over outstanding salaries, pension, housing, funeral and medical aid contributions, in which we won this litigation on July 4, 2016 at the Labour Court in Harare.”
They claimed Gwisai kept the ruling a secret to them.
“Our former employer was supposed to fulfil this Labour Court ruling within six months. However, when that period lapsed without any response from the GMB, Gwisai did not even bother to follow up the matter.
“In fact, much to our utter shock, we received a ‘Memorandum of Agreement for Mutual Separation Upon Termination of Employment Contract’ from the GMB on March 31, 2017 — eight months after the Labour Court ruling,” the letter said.
The ex-workers said the GMB stated in its memorandum that the agreement “supersedes all previous agreements, written or oral, which had existed or now exist between parties — effectively cancelling the Labour Court ruling”, which they were still unaware of.
They said the memorandum was also signed by Gwisai, as the GMB ex-employees legal representative of which they had never instructed him to make such a decision.
“In this regard, we believe that Gwisai acted with gross dishonesty and unprofessionalism not expected of his station. We are of the feeling that it is possible that he was working in cahoots with the GMB to disadvantage us of our dues, which the Labour Court — in its wisdom — had seen fit to award us,” said the ex-workers in their complaint to the LSZ.
The ex-workers said they were hoping the LSZ would investigate the matter and take appropriate action against Gwisai.
LSZ executive secretary Edward Mapara confirmed receiving the complaint from the ex-employees.
“We investigate all the matters we receive. Investigations are still underway. I cannot pre-empt much until we have concluded the investigations,” Mapara said.
Gwisai recently insisted he did a great job and that the former employees were paid in terms of the agreement for mutual separation.
He said he could not update each and every claimant on the development of the case because they were many, but could only talk and issue documents to their representatives.