ENERGY and Power Development Minister Elton Mangoma acted outside his powers by slashing salaries and allowances for Zesa Holdings managers in 2010 and 2011, the Labour Court has ruled.
Minister Mangoma usurped the powers of the Zesa Holdings board by varying the salary and allowance increases awarded to the managers in Grade 5.
The court nullified the move, a development that the managers' lawyer Mr Caleb Mucheche says warranted payment of the slashed percentages backdated to 2010.
In 2010, Zesa increased salaries for 40 managers in question (Grade D5) by 10 percent, but Minister Mangoma slashed the increment to seven percent.
Last year, Zesa Holdings awarded 18 percent increment on the managers' salaries and 30 percent on housing allowance, but through the minister's intervention, the increments were reduced to 12,5 percent and 11 percent respectively.
An arbitrator ruled in favour of Zesa Holdings and the minister on that aspect.
It was held that the variation of the salaries and allowances was lawful, prompting the managers to file a Labour Court appeal.
Labour Court President Loice Matanda-Moyo last Friday granted the appeal and blasted Minister Mangoma for acting outside his powers.
"The minister has not designated the appellants in terms of Section 39 (1) of the Audit and Exchequer Act. As such he has no powers of approving nor fixing their salaries.
"I do not read respondent's (Zesa Holdings) submissions as arguing that the minister has such powers. From the face of it, it is clear that the minister acted outside his powers.
"It is the duty of the respondent to fix salaries for the appellants. The respondent should be aware that it simply does not have powers to unilaterally vary salaries.
"It can do so while following the law. Accordingly, the appeal succeeds with costs," ruled the court.
The managers' lawyer Mr Caleb Mucheche said his clients should get all the outstanding salaries and allowances from 2010 to date.
The managers, in their application, accused Minister Mangoma of usurping the powers of the power utility's board by unilaterally slashing their salaries in violation of the Labour Act.
The minister's decision, according to the managers, favoured engineers at their expense.
Minister Mangoma, however, denied ever interfering with the board, saying his decision simply sought to de-link managers from the National Employment Council salary increase.
He said managers, unlike non-managerial staff, should get performance-based salary increments to avoid a situation where they end up "negotiating for themselves".
According to the managers, the salary cuts resulted in some engineers earning much more than them.
Aggrieved by the minister's involvement in the nitty-gritty issues of the running of the power utility, the 40 managers instructed their lawyer, Mr Caleb Mucheche of Matsikidze and Mucheche, to seek referral of the matter for conciliation on an urgent basis.
The workers described the minister's action as "anti-social justice and democracy in the workplace".
They further described it as "autocratic, barbaric and heartless".