OPPOSITION MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai will have to look for money to pay 17 workers who lost their jobs in the melee that followed the party’s acrimonious break-up in April last year.
The 17 employees, led by former party director general Toendepi Shonhe sued the MDC-T demanding their jobs back, arguing they had deserted their posts because of the violence which preceded the opposition party’s second split inside a decade.
In a judgment delivered Wednesday, an independent arbitrator concurred with Shonhe and his colleagues that their dismissal had been unfair.
“It is hereby ordered that the claim of unfair dismissal is upheld and I order that the respondent reinstate the claimants with full salary and benefits from the date of unfair dismissal and if the employment relationship is no longer tenable, damages as mutually agreed between parties in lieu of reinstatement,” said the arbitrator.
“Parties may submit themselves for quantification of damages if not resolved. The claimants to meet full costs of arbitration as determined before the conciliation officer”.
According to court papers, the former MDC-T staffers deserted their posts at the party’s Harvest House headquarters in central Harare due to systemic violence targeting employees who were reportedly aligned to “the secretary general of the party Tendai Biti”.
Constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku argued that the workers had stopped reporting for work in February following the out-break of violence after then deputy treasurer general Elton Mangoma had written a stinging letter demanding an elective congress and that party leader Tsvangirai leaves office.
“It is further submitted that violence was used to root out those considered to loyal to Mr Biti,” stated Madhuku.
“It is also submitted that there were no disciplinary proceedings that were instituted although in the case of the first claimant (Shonhe) he was served with a letter of suspension.
“It was averred that although the claimants sought audience with Tapiwa Mashakada (then acting secretary general) the meeting never took place.”
Madhuku added that although Mashakada had reportedly invited the workers back to work, “it was simply to hoodwink observers as attempts to get to Harvest House were hindered by youths who assaulted anybody suspected to be a Biti loyalist”.
On behalf of the MDC-T, Human Resources director S. Chuma submitted that the claimants deserted their work stations and ceased to report for duty.
“It was argued that the claimants repudiated their contracts by deliberately withholding their services from the employer,” said Chuma.
“It was further argued that the action by the claimants was effectively resignation and where there is resignation respondent could not have constructively dismissed the claimants.”