22 April 2014

Tanzania: Ex-Co-Op Staff Loses Appeal for Sh450 Million Terminal Benefits

THE Court of Appeal of Tanzania has dismissed with costs an appeal lodged by a former legal officer with the Kagera Cooperative Union (1990) Limited, Mathias Rweyemamu, challenging the High Court's refusal to entertain his suit for payment of over 450m/- terminal benefits.

"We do not see merits in this appeal. We accordingly dismiss the appeal with costs," Justices Engela Kileo, Katherine Oriyo and Ibrahim Juma ruled after upholding the judgment given by Judge Bernard Luanda (as he then was) on April 2, 2007.

The justices said that they could see no reason to fault the conclusion reached by the trial judge that the suit by the appellant filed in the district court and that before the High Court arose from a common cause of action.

"We agree with the trial judge that, through the High Court case the appellant sought reliefs which he could not obtain in the district court.

The suit which the appellant filed in the High Court at Bukoba is bad in law," they ruled.

The panel noted that although in his submissions the appellant staunchly tried to persuade the court that his two suits did not share a common cause of action, they were still persuaded, noting that he was more concerned with getting more reliefs in the High Court than he had obtained from the district court.

"To that end, the appellant was alleged to have sought leave of the High Court before proceeding of the second suit based on the same cause of action as his first suit," they concluded.

On June 1, 1998, the Union's general manager, the respondent, had offered the appellate employment as a legal officer. The appellant was first engaged on probationary terms for six months, but he was unfortunate as his appointment was not confirmed until October 27, 1999, when the respondent terminated his service.

Aggrieved by such turn of events, the appellant filed two suits against the respondent. He filed the first suit in 2000 in the District Court of Bukoba.

Among his claims in the suit, the appellant demanded payments in lieu of annual leave, unpaid subsistence and repatriation allowances and one month's salary.

The respondent did not enter an appearance to defend the suit. On April 4, 2000, the district court granted the appellant's judgment he sought, which awarded him a total of 9,469,673/-. It was four years later on August 2, 2004, that the appellant lodged his second suit in the High Court at Bukoba.

This time around the appellant asked for a declaration that the termination of his employment was not only wrongful but also amounted to a breach of contract of employment.

For that breach, the appellant asked to be paid 300m/- as general damages. He also wanted to be paid specific damages totalling 156,525,320/- arising from his unpaid employment benefits. Unlike in the first suit, in this second case the respondent filed a written statement of defence to dispute the claims.

The respondent further raised some grounds of objection to the effect that the suit was bad in law for contravening the provision of Order II Rule 2 (3) of the Civil Procedure Code, requiring a party to seek leave of the court to institute a new case arising from a common cause of action.

While dealing with the objection, Judge Luanda concluded that the claims in the first suit that was before the district court and that before the High Court were based on the same cause of action, thus the appellant should not have filed the second suit without having obtained leave of the court.


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