31 July 2012

Zimbabwe: ZESA Sues Madhuku

ZESA Holdings is challenging the arbitral award compelling it to grant its workers a pay rise on the basis that the arbitrator, Professor Lovemore Madhuku, was later discovered to be one of the lawyers representing the workers.

The power utility argues that Prof Madhuku was registered as a lawyer under Matsikidze and Mucheche law firm.

This is the same law firm that represented the workers during the conciliation stage.

It is Zesa's contention that Prof Madhuku showed favour to "his clients" when he presided over the labour case and that his decision should be nullified.

The decision was the one that resulted in the suspension of over 100 workers from the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company and Zesa Enterprises on July 10 this year.

The workers reportedly staged a job action pressing for a salary increment in line with the arbitral award.

In the court application, Zesa Holdings cited Prof Madhuku, the Zimbabwe Energy Workers' Union and Zesa Technical Employees Association as respondents.

Zesa Holdings corporate services executive, Mr Jadson Ndlovu, deposed an affidavit in which he laid the basis of challenging the appointment of Prof Madhuku as an arbitrator and his subsequent decision.

Zesa Holdings and the workers have been locked up in a dispute emanating from a collective bargaining agreement of January 27 this year. The parties failed to agree on the interpretation with the workers arguing that the agreement compelled Zesa to award a pay increase.

Zesa Holdings then challenged the decision and the parties went for conciliation.

At that stage Matsikidze and Mucheche law firm represented the workers.

The matter was finally referred for voluntary arbitration and each party appointed an arbitrator of choice.

The workers appointed Prof Madhuku, while the employer appointed Mr George Makings.

When the parties met for a pre-arbitration meeting, they were surprised to find Prof Madhuku facilitating as an arbitrator when he was known to be a member of the worker's law firm.

"Circumstances of this matter are that Prof Madhuku has a practising certificate in the name of Matsikidze and Mucheche. It is my understanding that a legal practitioner holding a practising certificate in the name of a firm, practises legal work in that firm.

"Alternatively, a practising certificate is obtained in order to do actual legal work with a particular firm.

"In this case, Prof Madhuku is an associate in the firm Matsikidze and Mucheche. This means Mr Matsikidze and Mr Mucheche are his principals or supervisors," said Mr Ndlovu on behalf of Zesa Holdings.

Prof Madhuku is yet to file his response.

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