19 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Connor in a Corner. . . Northern Irishman Facing Difficult Time, Sends SOS in Desperate Bid for Money

FORMER CAPS United coach Sean Connor claims he has money to last him just four days in South Africa, where he has sought temporary shelter, and fears that if he doesn't get urgent help he could turn into a destitute.

The 45-year-old Northern Irishman was ordered to leave Zimbabwe earlier this month by the Department of Immigration, because of complications related to his visa.

Connor was dismissed by the Green Machine last August and has been battling to get his severance package after winning a pay-off, of about US$100 000, when he took his case for arbitration at the Commercial Centre of Arbitration.

CAPS United have appealed against the judgement and the matter is now set to be decided in court.

Connor was ordered to leave Zimbabwe, shortly after returning here from an end-of-year holiday spent back home in Northern Ireland, because of problems related to his visa.

He travelled by bus to South Africa where he has been pitched waiting to be allowed to enter Zimbabwe and continue pursuing his labour case against his former employers.

Connor says he desperately needs money to enable him to cover his expenses, for the next three to four weeks, and also gives an insight into the kind of life he was now living here in Zimbabwe since parting ways with the Green Machine.

It's a far cry from the exclusive upmarket fully-furnished garden flat in Harare that he used to live in, all fully-paid for by CAPS United, during his time as the Green Machine coach.

Connor tells a Zimbabwean friend, in a letter asking for help, that he was now staying in a two-roomed cottage in Harare, with no running water, and had got used to sleeping on the floor.

"Back in Zim I had rented a small two-room cottage at US$300, and paid the deposit and Jan and Feb rent," Connor wrote in his letter to a friend he once stayed with here in Harare. "I am living like a real local, no hot water, getting water from a well, etc, and sleeping on the floor, but it was ok as I (and) Chacha (his girlfriend) keeps it clean.

"I had enough money to stay (in Zimbabwe) until April. But I have been in South (Africa) now for 12 days, and that includes a bus trip to Beitbridge, where I could not get a refund and had to pay to come back.

"I have not been living extravagant."

Connor even makes sensational, and unfounded, claims that CAPS United owner, Twine Phiri, has allegedly had a hidden hand in the problems he is facing, which have seen him being ordered out of the country.

He also tells his friend that he is afraid of approaching former club vice-president, Farai Jere, because the Harare businessman was hostile to him the last time they met.

"I was wondering if, maybe, you could loan me some money to get me through the next 3-4 weeks," says the Northern Irishman.

"I know that Phiri is trying to mess me over this case but he may delay and frustrate me but he cannot run away forever.

"I know the type of guy I am dealing with, if he could do what he did to Farai, then I am nothing, too, to him.

"I am still a little reluctant to call Farai as the last time we met, he was not very friendly, but he must know (that) if it were not for me and Alan getting that meeting with CABS, then he would have never found out about the shares.

"You remember all the hassle with getting the share certs (certificates) etc, that basically delayed and cost us the deal."

CAPS United were on the verge of tying up a sponsorship package with CABS last year before the deal collapsed at the last minute.

Connor, apparently, was heavily involved in the negotiations.

The Northern Irishman, who was a surprise choice to replace Lloyd Chitembwe as head coach of the Green Machine at the beginning of last season, says his life has skidded off the rails.

"Right now my life is on hold as I try to sort this issue out," he says in his letter to his friend. I know you owe me nothing but I feel I can trust you and we did get on together when I stayed with you. I hope you can help in some way.

"I have enough money to stay here for four days, then (after that) I do not know what to do. The money I have was got together by my family but when I was forced to leave Zim, I have spent a lot more than planned on accommodation, food etc.

"I know it will be difficult for you to let me stay at your home. I really hope you can help."

Connor's Zimbabwean manager, Denford Matashu, told The Herald yesterday that his client was a bitter man who was not being treated fairly.

"He is in South Africa and has been there for two or three weeks now and he is bitter about what is happening to him right now," said Matashu.

"His passport is still with the Department of Immigration and for him to get into South Africa we had to liaise with the Irish consulate. He got a call that he should leave and left by bus and it was a horrendous experience for him. Sean has no intention of coming back to stay in Zimbabwe, he just wants to have his case with CAPS United finalised so that he can get his dues and we are waiting for the courts to give us a date as to when the case will be determined.

"It's not a good situation that Sean is right now."

Connor challenged CAPS United, claiming that his services had been terminated unlawfully, and an arbitrator awarded him US$90 000. The Norther Irishman's contract earned him US$4 000 a month in basic pay and he would take home an extra US$400, in winning bonuses, in every game CAPS United won. His rolling contract was initially set to be reviewed in January.

Connor demanded US$122 000 from CAPS United, as a settlement, but the club only offered him US$15 000, as a golden handshake, leading to the case being taken for arbitration.

An arbitrator ruled in favour of Connor.

"In terms of the law, Connor was on a fixed term contract of two years with the provision that this contract would be renewed after twelve months," read the judgment.

"Such a contract provides that the relevant notice period for a two-year fixed term contract shall be three months. In this regard, the 30-day notice clause in the claimant's contract fails to meet the minimum requirements of the law.

"I find it curious that this clause could have found place in any contract of employment.

"No-one has a right under the contract of employment to terminate a contract 'without just cause'. The point argued by CAPS United is that Connor entered into a performance-related contract and therefore agreed to be terminated in the manner he was.

"I disagree with that contention. The contract of employment is clear in that it gave the respondent the power to review the contract after 12 months.

"Even if such a review had been carried out, which I have already found out was never carried out, such a review would have been against the letter and spirit of the contract of employment."

Connor, though, lost his claim for a motor vehicle allowance and a signing-on fee for the beginning of this year.

"I uphold all the claimed items as listed except the motor vehicle allowances and the signing-on fee for 2013," the arbitrator ruled.

"The claim on the motor vehicle is based on speculation while that on the signing on fees is disallowed for the simple reason that I believe one is only entitled to the payment of this allowance at the commencement of the employment relationship.

"In the result, Connor's remaining legitimate claims against the respondent arising from breach of contract amount to US$99 640."

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