Friday, 17 July 2015


WORKERS are now at the mercy of employers after the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that companies can lawfully terminate their contracts at any time without offering them packages, provided they are given at least three months notice. Termination of contract on notice becomes the cheaper way of firing workers for firms as they do not have to give any explanation or conduct disciplinary hearings, let alone follow the expensive retrenchment route.

Labour experts described the ruling as a serious threat to job security in the country, as workers may be asked to leave employment empty-handed at any time, while employers feel the ruling will go a long way in lowering employment costs.

The interpretation of the law was made in a landmark judgment in which two former Zuva Petroleum managers, Don Nyamande and Kingstone Donga,were challenging termination of their contracts under the same circumstances.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku and four other judges, sitting as a Supreme Court, unanimously agreed that the common law position placing employees and employers on an equal footing was still operational.

As a result of that common law position, employers have the same right to give notice and terminate employment, in as much as a worker can do the same.

“It is common cause that once upon a time, the employer and the employee had a common law right to terminate an employment relationship on notice,” reads the judgement.
“That common law right in respect of the employer and employee can only be limited, abolished or regulated by an Act of Parliament or a Statutory Instrument that is clearly intra vires an Act of Parliament.

“I am satisfied that Section 12B of the (Labour) Act does not abolish the employer’s common law right to terminate employment on notice in terms of an employment contract for a number of reasons.”

Advocates Thabani Mpofu and Nelson Chamisa, instructed by Mr Innocent Chagonda of Artherstone and Cook represented Zuva Petroleum, while Professor Lovemore Madhuku and Mr Caleb Mucheche acted for the two managers.

Chief Justice Chidyausiku said in the judgement that Section 12(4) of the Labour Act was the one that regulates the period of notice and it reads:
“Except where a longer period of notice has been provided under a contract of employment or in any relevant enactment, and subject to subsections (5), (6) and (7), notice of termination of the contract of employment to be given by either party shall be —

a) Three months in the case of a contract without limit of time or a contract for a period of two years or more;
b) Two months in the case of a contract for a period of one year or more, but less than two years;
c) One month in the case of a contract for a period of six months or more, but less one year
d) Two weeks in the case of a contract for a period of three months or more, but less than six months
e) One day in the case of a contract for a period of less than three months or in the case of casual work or seasonal work”.

To that end, the Supreme Court concluded that the Labour Court was correct in allowing Zuva Petroleum to terminate Nyamande and Donga’s employment contracts on notice.
“It is for these reasons that I agree with the conclusion of the Labour Court that the respondent was entitled at law to give notice terminating the employment of the appellants in terms of the contracts of employment between the parties,” the court ruled.

“Accordingly, the appeal fails and is hereby dismissed with costs.”
After the judgement, Mr Chagonda gave his interpretation of the court decision.
“The judgement reinforces the common law right of an employer to terminate the contract of employment on notice that the parties have agreed to in their contract,” said Mr Chagonda.
“Where the contract of employment does not specify a notice period, Section 12(4) of the Labour Act specifies the notice period to be given and the maximum period being three months.”

Mr Chagonda said workers will now go home empty-handed.
“If the employer wishes, you are required to work and get your normal salary for the three months notice period and after the expiry of the notice period, the worker leaves employment empty-handed,” he said.

“Some companies may opt to just pay the workers their three months’ salary at once without working and ask him or her to leave immediately.”

Another lawyer who refused to be named said: “Employers no longer have to go through the expensive retrenchment process or to conduct any disciplinary hearings. They will simply ask the workers to go without giving any reasons for no cost.”

The lawyer said the common law position has its roots in the traditional “Master and Servant relationship”. herald


3 month salary in Zimbabwe now days equal
Approximately 500 dollars. ..VENDORS are looking mighty good right now. .ZIMBABWE IS DOOOOMED. .

u can say tht again

Tichasangana pa Ku vhota

He is just doing his job as a lawyer, not as a politician. I bet if he represented a murderer and got him a lighter sentence, u would not complain.

The ruling is very fair, especially if you are an employer. This will help in helping easing doing business in Zimbabwe. I am always amazed at the impunity of Zim workers! For example they demand a salary increase even when they know their company is reeling in serious losses, they see being paid a bonus not as a sign of hard work and rewarding good performance but as an inalienable right, they think that no matter how shoddy they are the company must not fire them until they themselves decide to walk out voluntarily! This same mentality is one reason why the new farmers are finding it hard to be productive. The workers are not only lazy but also are thieves stealing everything from struggling farmers. Worse still the farmers cannot fire them because they are over-protected by the law. On one of my researches into how farmers can value-add their produce at source; I was astonished at the number of farmers who where afraid to buy small processing equipment for fear their workers will simply steal them and resale for a quickie buck! The farmers told me that they are powerless as the workers are always favoured by the labour courts!

They want to protect zanu pf chefs who cant oay employees. This should be a law to the manageial positions who are highly accountable with regarf to company profitability and in anycase they are well paid in zim and akways reep off the company in termination benefits. The law csnnot be applied to everyone though coz employees who are alresdy underpaid will be ripped off and get the sack for nothing!thatsmugabe's zimbabwe, kuzvitonga kwedu and our sovereignty!

That is the problem there to accept cases that contradicts his party and what he stands for. With murder it is different than a social cause

Had not thought of it along those lines!

The ruling is legal. They only interpreted what the law says. I am actually not shocked by the ruling because that is what the ACT says. 3 months notice either way for both parties. Whether its fair or not is for another discussion. Let the parliamentarians work on it.

Aiwaka iri rava basa raarikuita and it is guided by certain rules/laws. Haana kupfeka hat ye politics apa. There's a difference

Wrong. Law should never discriminate. Kana mutemo wangodzikwa it has to be for allbody not onebody!

Exactly. Same applies to landlords and tenants (I digress).

Saka murder is not a social problem? Inga.
You either believe in the rule of law or u don't. You cant be half-pregnant.

Mukoma Llyod my point is if it was a trial about murder would have not received much publicity . However this new precedent set will create unprecedented havoc and dismissals of the working class at the mere feeling of an employer. The ramifications of this judgment is HUGE

Honaka Chana cha tete for him to take a case it is problem on its own, Herbert Chitepo refused to persecuted liberation fighters as he stood for a cause and defended them for free . If you are fighting for a cause let it not be words but action as well

On a positive note, more jobs can be created when the need arises, unproductive workers can be sacked without the employer en curing additional costs. We must remember that the employer also has the right to terminate his/her services by giving 3 months notice though i think 3 months notice is to long, that is what it is fed income....

I support this ruling nokuti vashandi vanovhaira chose. Kana vapiwa mabasa vodokusiya vadonhedza company with huge retrenchment payments. I wish this ruling had come earlier some companies could have been saved. Macompany mazhinji angadai aripo if this ruling had come earlier. Motodzikama vashandi nokuti tinokupai 3 months notice mochienda musina chamakabata kkkkkkk!

R u that much of a beauty?

Employees should have adopted employment code of conduct which are better than the one provided in the labour act, common sense. The problem is most employee organisations don't know how and where their bread is battered. Its now too late if you have none! Employers have to terminate employees according to the code, if they have any, otherwise the code in the labour act will be applied!!!!!!!!!!

I think the discussion is interesting however I think it is not correct to assume that all employees are running down companies when we have company bosses earning mega salaries while employees get less than the PDL. We have directors earning those mega salaries dripping the company by amassing huge sums of money through obscene perks and bleeding the organisations like the interfin bank where not only employees were exploited but many depositors. Where is the supreme court when those sharks are roaming the street only to become vicious when it comes to employees. You need to be an employee to understand whats going on.

The court ruling was fair

The ruling was correct as common law goes. The only way out of this is for an Act of parliament to overturn this ruling. However having said this although the common law has been adhered to what is not taken into consideration is the assumption that an employee is equal in power to an employer. Furthermore I am not sure if the lawyers are also taking into consideration that the labour act still outlines unfair labour practice, my assumption is this ruling does not include this therefore even if an employer should want to break contract this can only be done using measures that do not contravene the labour act in terms of what is construed as unfair labour practice. Therefore the Ministry of Labour should prepare itself to be bursting at the seams. What is also unfortunate is that no one is addressing the fact that these two former employees have actually lost at least + 4 years service having begun this dispute in 2011 but also being owed compensation from 2010 or even before this if BP Shell did not pay them off for the take over. However they also had two opportunities to get that payment once at voluntary redundancy stage and secondly at notice of retrenchment, what a loss. What is even worse is they lost this case at cost which means they will not only be paying their lawyers but possibly paying the cost of the Zuva Petroleum lawyers and with what is my question. Well finally, many countries who have opened their doors to foreign investment without having protective labour laws in place have opened their borders to modern day slavery and modernised sweat shops as they helplessly watch as these investors spiral out of control leaving its own people worse off than before as they labour for slave wages that keep them below the poverty datum line but I am confident this is not our story. May the cabinet and Parliament clarify this position in terms of the conditions for applying the said 3 months.

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