28 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Labour Court Registry Under Fire

THE Labour Court registry has come under fire for allegedly bungling when it misled the court into erroneously rescinding a judgment ordering Masvingo City Council to pay its workers arrear salaries to the tune of US$3,5 million.

An Assistant registrar identified as Mr Mupita was implicated as the one who went out of bounds and placed before the judge a file with his endorsement that the matter "has become urgent".

The workers argue that only a judge or the applicant may endorse on the file that the matter was urgent.

The registrar was not expected to render such a service.

According to the general secretary for the Zimbabwe Urban Council Workers' Union Mr Moses Mahlangu, the same matter was placed before the judge without a notice of opposition from the workers despite the fact that it had been filed on January 2 2013.

Labour Court President Loice Matanda-Moyo on January 14 this year erroneously granted the application for rescission of judgment.

The same judge last Thursday reversed the decision after ZUCWU lawyer Mr Rodgers Matsikidze convincingly clarified the irregularities and the bungling on the part of the registry.

Mr Matanda-Moyo indicated that the earlier order had been granted in error.

"It is ordered that the application for rescission of judgment of this Honourable Court in case LC/01/2013 be and is hereby granted as such order was issued in error," read the latest order by the same judge.

The municipality failed to pay the workers and some property was attached and removed from the town house.

Council on two occasions lost the bid to stop the execution of the judgment at the High Court before they turned to the Labour for rescission.

In an affidavit by Mr Mahlangu forming part of the application to quash the erroneous judgment, it was indicated that Mr Mupita handled the file in the absence of the Registrar of the Labour Court.

It was also revealed in the affidavit that some documents that were never served on the workers were placed before the judge on January 14 when the erroneous order was made.

The application brought before the judge on the day in question, according to the workers, was an ordinary application dated August 4, 2011 and that it was only served on the workers some 18 months later (December 31 2012).

When the file in question was placed before the judge, it had no certificate of service and that the registrar (Mr Mupita) did not indicate on the referral form to the judge whether there was a notice of opposition or not. The registry informed the judge, according to the workers, that there was a pending sale in Masvingo instead of hearing it from the applicant (council) through a formal letter.

It was the workers' view that the conduct of the registry was improper and tarnished the office of the Registrar of the Labour Court.

"Such an approach by registry undermines the confidence that applicants have in the registry as a department of the court.

"As highlighted, there are a lot of other issues as well in this matter. The rescission application was accepted without a case number and was kept for one and half years without being set down. It was also accepted without proof that it had been served," read Mr Mahlangu's affidavit.

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