13 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Masvingo Saga - Court Reserves Judgment

THE High Court yesterday reserved judgment in an urgent chamber application by Masvingo Municipality to block the sale of its attached property. This comes as MDC-T leader Mr Morgan

Tsvangirai yesterday held a crisis meeting with the council that is dominated by his party in an attempt to save it from collapse.

Council workers attached the movable property, including fire tenders, ambulances and computer servers, on December 5 in fulfilment of a Labour Court award.

The Labour Court ordered council to pay its workers salary arrears to the tune of US$3,6 million.

The award was registered at the High Court, prompting the deputy sheriff to execute the order.

Justice Andrew Mutema did not give a date by which judgment would be ready.

Council, through its lawyers Chihambakwe, Makonese and Ncube argued that it had filed an application to rescind the judgment and that execution should be stayed pending determination of the application.

Council also argued that its operations would collapse if the property was sold.

It also challenges the quantification of the arrears.

But Mr Rodgers Matsikidze, acting for the workers, contends that the said rescission application was not authentic.

Zimbabwe Urban Council Workers Union secretary-general Mr Moses Mahlangu deposed an affidavit challenging the authenticity of the application for rescission of judgment.

"Until today, first respondent's (Zimbabwe Urban Council Workers' Union) legal practitioners of record had never been served with the alleged rescission application.

"Until today, the first respondent has not served the rescission application to first respondent or the workers committee," he said.

The workers argue that the said application, as attached, does not bear any case number and only the supporting affidavit does.

"One would wonder why an application filed that long is not yet heard.

"One would wonder why the Registrar of the Labour Court would not request the other party to file its response as usual until to date," the affidavit read.

The net conclusion to the case, according to the workers, was that the rescission application could be an afterthought by council.

Even if the application was genuine, the workers argue, it did not have an effect of stopping execution.

Quantification, the workers say, was done by consent and the award in question was never contested.

Mr Tsvangirai held a closed-door meeting with senior council officials led by Mayor Alderman Femius Chakabuda.

The party sought ways to save the city from collapse and avoid a potential backlash from miffed residents.

The MDC-T leader was in Masvingo to address his party's provincial council meeting to prepare the party for next year's elections.

He was accompanied by top MDC-T leaders, including party vice president Thokozani Khupe, chairman Mr Lovemore Moyo and secretary-general Mr Tendai Biti when he met Alderman Chakabuda and other senior officials.

Mr Tsvangirai reportedly expressed dismay at the latest turn of events.

Sources who attended the closed-door meeting said Mr Tsvangirai and his delegation expressed fear that the collapse of Masvingo City Council could worsen an already bad track record of MDC-T's management of local authorities countrywide.

Most MDC-T councillors in several local authorities countrywide have either been fired or investigated for corruption, a situation that has put a blemish on the party's approval ratings with fresh elections due next year.

MDC-T spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora confirmed that Mr Tsvangirai met the council leadership in the aftermath of the attachment of council property.

He said Mr Tsvangirai sympathised with the council following its latest predicament, but also said the MDC-T leader wanted workers to be paid their dues.

"Yes it's true, Mr Tsvangirai held an emergency crisis meeting with the Masvingo City Council leadership because the attachment of council property by the Messenger of Court is an issue of extreme concern to us," said Mr Mwonzora.

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