Thursday, 22 March 2018

WHAT TO DO WITH TWO TOWN CLERKS

GWERU City Council (GCC) is in a quandary over which legal and financial route to take after the Bulawayo High Court nullified the suspension and dismissal of Town Clerk Mr Daniel Matawu by former Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere.

The local authority had appointed Ms Elizabeth Gwatipedza to replace Mr Matawu after Mr Kasukuwere fired him.

Mr Kasukuwere’s gross incompetence and abuse of office as exposed by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi on Thursday last week has left the local authority in a dilemma as on paper there are two town clerks.

Justice Mathonsi also ordered Mr Kasukuwere to recompense Mr Matawu for the legal costs he incurred from the time he instituted legal proceedings against him.

From Monday to yesterday council has been in marathon meetings with its legal representatives from Tawona and Jaravani Attorneys and Mr Reginald Chidawanyika representing Mr Matawu on the way forward.

Tawona and Jaravani Attorneys yesterday highlighted three possible options council can take.
“Available options, (are that) Mr Matawu may resume his duties with immediate effect without loss of salary and benefits for the time he was on suspension since the judgment nullified every action which was taken against him but this may not be convenient to council since it has since employed another town clerk to replace him. This option is Mr Matawu’s immediate entitlement in terms of the judgment but council may explore negotiation with Mr Matawu for termination of his contract by mutual consent although this imposes heavier financial obligations on council. If Mr Matawu insists on resumption of duty, council may accept him in its employment and prefer fresh charges against him for his misconduct since the judgment did not address the merits of his misconduct charges,” reads part of the legal advice to GCC from Tawona and Jaravani Attorneys.

“This (Negotiating) is the most practical option in the circumstances although it needs Mr Matawu’s consent and has more expenses to council in terminal benefits and compensation for loss of employment. The probable expenses, assuming that Mr Matawu had no workplace contract are as follows, backdated salary and benefits from time of suspension to date, cash in-lieu of accrued vacation leave up to 90 days, compensation for loss of employment at the rate of a month’s salary for every two years served, pension, gratuity and other benefits provided for in prevailing circulars for the undertaking.”

Council lawyers, however, said appealing to the Supreme Court would not be of benefit to the local authority.
“This option is legally available to council but it should be taken only as a last resort since it is likely to be labelled as an abuse of process to just postpone the inevitable because the ultimate resolution of Mr Matawu’s case revolves around the validity of the mandate of the commission when it suspended and disciplined him,” reads part of the legal advice.

Tawona and Jaravani Attorneys recommended that council negotiates for termination of contract by either mutual consent or notice as the most viable and practical options available to council.

“Negotiation for termination of contract by either mutual consent or notice is the most viable and practical option available to council in the circumstances and we hereby recommend council to take appropriate steps in pursuit of such and to further negotiate for deferred payments of Mr Matawu’s dues depending on council’s financial circumstances,” recommended council lawyers.

The High Court also ruled that the extension of the tenure of office of the caretaker Gweru Commission was illegal in that Mr Kasukuwere had no prerogative to extend its tenure beyond 90 days as stipulated by the Urban Councils Act.

The High Court ruling has left Gweru City Council on the horns of a dilemma as the commission made several appointments in the local authority during the extended tenure which has been deemed illegal.

Mayor, Councillor Charles Chikozho and Mr Chidawanyika confirmed the meetings. Chronicle

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