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Dismissed Simbisa employees fight for reinstatement

Former Simbisa Brands employees have once again approached the courts to have their dismissal overturned after the labour court threw out their appeal.

Several employees went to the Labour Court in 2016 citing cases of sexual harassment, discrimination and unlawful dismissal.

Following a protracted legal battle that even sucked in then Minister of State for Bulawayo, Eunice Sandi Moyo, the 2017 ruling by Judge Mercy Moya-Matshanga went in favour of the employer and the former employees then sought to appeal the ruling.

However, they failed to file their appeal in time with the Supreme Court and have now filed for an application for condonation seeking the court’s permission to hear the case for the second time.

Meluleki Ndlovu of Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers is representing the disgruntled former employees and has filed an application for condonation for late filing of an application for leave to appeal at the labour court.

The workers alleged they were mistreated while on duty and unfairly dismissed in 2016 by their employer.
CITE is in possession of the employees’ court papers detailing the alleged abuse they endured under the hands of the employer.

It is alleged when the workers complained about the abuse, the management would boast that it had influence and ‘knew people’ at NEC, Labour Office and the labour Court.

According to the court papers, the organisation allegedly contravened several sections of the Labour Act where it dismissed employees without legal hearings or terminated contracts without salary or benefits.

They state victimised employees’ matters dealt with by the labour court lacked transparency.

“The close connection which management claimed to enjoy meant all issues raised by employees were bound to bounce or doomed to fail this kind of relationship rendered their matters useless no matter which route the victims took,” read the application.

“Livingstone Nyikadzino who was employed for about 15 years earned some misconduct charges for claiming what is rightfully his. Following a restructuring within the organisation, affected workers in Northern and Eastern region, were awarded packages and other benefits. Nyikadzino was thus dismissed without a hearing later he questioned why they were not getting the same packages.”

According to the papers Samuel Makoni raised tribalism allegations against the Human Resources Manager Juta Tshuma after being confronted for writing his report in Shona since he could not express himself In English.

“Tshuma’s anger manifested in his failure to deliver a determination letter after a non-procedural disciplinary hearing. Tshuma, despite the management’s shortcomings, had the audacity to tell Makoni they got finished with him long ago.”

One Clement Sibanda got suspended over a minor mistake he did while on duty. No hearing was called for him, instead, he was served with a termination letter without salary or benefits.

“By so doing the employer breached section 12B(1) o the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01) which states every employee has the right not to be unfairly dismissed.”

The employer also breached section 13 of the Labour Act which stipulates that wages and benefits are to be paid upon termination of employment.

The company is also being alleged to have abused courts through defying a lawful order to reinstate affected workers in the case of Senzeni Zimbizi who was employed as a till operator at Inns Express who was dismissed after being found with a positive variance of $6.

Zimbizi, in an affidavit attached on the papers, stated she was discriminated and insulted by the Human Resources manager Juta Tshuma who called her a “Shona beggar.”

“I protested against my suspension letter but Juta Tshuma dismissed me calling me a Shona beggar. He said-This (Bulawayo) is not an extension of Mashonaland. Leave us and go. After that I was called for an illegal hearing and dismissed from work. I took up my case with NEC local joined community who instructed Tshuma to reinstate me back but he refused. He said he did not want see me at the Innscor premises. While my case was still pending, Tshuma went anf signed for the pay-out of my pension without my concern,” said Zimbizi.

The application further alludes to the organisations’ modus operandi of victimisation arising from influence over systems mandated to handle labour disputes.

“Almost all the victims have directly or indirectly mentioned the organisations’ managers boastfully told them about their relationship with the NEC, Labour Office and Labour Courts as well as the Sherriff of Zimbabwe’s office.

The employer has deliberately thrown a spanner in the works thereby frustrating victims in their attempt to lawfully resole their matters.

“Victims are very much aware that such issues are purely labour matters however, corruption has taken its toll thus rendering the labour resolution machinery ineffective and of no sue. It is therefore in the view of the above facts that victimized workers issue seek Hon minister’s intervention and influence to persuade the organisation under the consideration to obey the rule of law by addressing the reported issues.”

Another employee, whose name has been withheld for ethical reasons, alleged she was sexually harassed by Tshuma and an operations manager.

“The operations manager would call the employee at night which resulted in an altercation with her husband who started accusing her of infidelity. The two managers further connived to suspend the victim and near bothered to lay charges or initiate a disciplinary hearing.

“On taking her matter to the Labour Court, the Court dismissed her case or failure to exhaust internal remedies.

Thus, the court did not consider victim as indefinitely suspended, there were no charges preferred against the employee, the time-frame to charge employee as permitted by the code of conduct had lapsed and a noncommittal attitude by the employer was deliberate ploy to frustrate the victim whose suspension had no salary,” read the application.

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