An attempt by Government to suspend a Labour Court order compelling it to pay 18 lecturers US$5,3 million in relocation expenses and interest failed last week after the same court ruled that the employer was approaching the court with dirty hands. Labour Court judge Mr Rogers Manyangadze dismissed an application by Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Secretary, Dr Washington Mbizvo, who sought a stay of execution of the two judgments granted in September 2012 and June 2013.
Government was ordered to pay each lecturer US$297 000, including interest from October 22 last year in relocation expenses after it unilaterally transferred them last year for participating in an industrial action.
The lecturers successfully challenged their transfers but Government ignored the order. Under the initial order, each lecturer was supposed to get a minimum of US$10 500.
Dr Mbizvo also wanted the matter to be heard on an urgent basis but the court ruled that the applicant had been aware of the existence of the judgement since 2012 and knew he had an obligation to pay the relocation expenses.
Mr Manyangadze also blasted Dr Mbizvo's lawyer Mr Tinei Dodo for making a "defective application" as it was full of errors.
The application was made after the lecturers, represented by the College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe, approached the Civil Service Commission last week seeking redress.
The lecturers are from Bondolfi, Mkoba and Masvingo teachers' colleges.
Mr Manyangadze ruled that Dr Mbizvo was in contempt of court and was approaching the court with dirty hands.
"When the judgment of June 28 2013 was handed down applicant (then Respondent) had not yet complied with the court order of 12 September 2012," he said.
"The court held that applicant was in clear defiance of the law and went to grant the application for quantification. The respondent is seeking relief from a court whose orders he has still not complied with. It is 13 months since the original order was granted."
Mr Manyangadze expressed displeasure with the attitude of the applicant's lawyer.
He said the applicant, was described as Secretary, Higher and Tertiary Education instead of Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology while the chamber application "was not paginated".
"The points summarised above essentially indicate oversight in the preparation and editing of the application before submission to court," Mr Manyangadze said.
"If thorough proof reading was done, the defects could have been attended to. The defects, while reflecting an undesirable pell mell rush in the preparation and submission of court papers, are not fatal in nature.
"Notwithstanding its findings that the defects adverted to are not fatal, the court would like to express its displeasure with the attitude of the applicant."
He said that Dr Mbizvo's lawyer seemed unfazed with the errors taking comfort in the fact that he was approaching "what he described in his oral submissions as an informal court."
"The legal practitioner, and perhaps other legal practitioners of a similar mind, need to be reminded that the Labour Court is a court of record formally and constitutionally mandated to preside over matters of labour and employment," Mr Manyangadze said.
"Practitioners are warned against slip shod preparation and filing of court papers and reminded of the need to adhere to the court's rules, without which the conduct of court proceedings can be chaotic."
In his application, Dr Mbizvo argued that if the matter is not heard urgently, the lecturers would demand compliance with the order granting them relocation expenses.
"If they are paid these expenses they will use the money and will be unable to repay it should the applicant be successful in the Supreme Court."
The money includes all the expenses the lecturers incurred for the more than 251 days they were unilaterally transferred.
The relocation expenses, that cover breakfast, lunch, dinner and supplementary allowances, were calculated in terms of the travelling and subsistence rates of the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology After the industrial action, Dr Mbizvo conducted hearings for more than 300 lecturers who participated in the strike resulting in some being fined, while others were warned.
Government argued that disciplinary order had already been enforced and different penalties were imposed because each party of the applicants was facing different charges and aggravating circumstances.