The Herald (Harare)

19 July 2014

Zimbabwe: Courts Issue Conflicting Judgments On Workers' Strike

Two different courts yesterday issued conflicting judgments on the Chitungwiza municipality workers' strike, with the High Court ruling in favour of the Government's show cause order to stop the strike, while the Labour Court ruled in favour of the workers.

This added more confusion to the strike, as the workers were left holding on to two opposing judgments on the legality of the strike that has paralysed operations in the town. High Court judge Justice David Mangota dismissed the urgent application by the Zimbabwe Urban Councils Union (ZUCWU) to declare the show cause order a nullity. He heard the application sitting in his chambers and felt that the ZUCWU approached the court to seek its assistance to break the law since according to the papers before him, the industrial action was illegal.

To express the court's displeasure, Justice Mangota dismissed the case with costs at higher scale. While the High Court was deciding on the matter, the Labour Court issued its ruling in favour of the ZUCWU and nullified the show cause orders that were issued by two ministers to end the strike.

This was after ZUCWU lawyer Mr George Mboko raised a preliminary point attacking the two show cause orders that were issued by two different ministers. The main argument was that the first show cause order was not issued and signed by the responsible Minister of Labour, Public Service and Social Welfare Nicholas Goche.

It was instead signed by Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa because Minister Goche was out of town on business in Victoria Falls. It was also ruled by the Labour Court that the second show cause order issued by Minister Goche was a non-event as at July 10.

Labour Court judge Justice Gladys Mhuri said after considering submissions by both parties' lawyers and the papers filed of record, the court found that the show cause orders were a nullity.

Chitungwiza municipal lawyer Mr Rodgers Matsikidze argued that a Minister could sign on behalf of another if it was an emergency.

"If Minister Parirenyatwa was authorised to issue and sign the show cause order, why then would Minister Goche issue and sign another order, more so on the same day," asked Justice Mhuri.

Justice Mhuri ruled that the second show cause order was a nullity as it was based on papers containing recommendations which were signed by the same official.

Justices Betty Chidziva and Rodgers Manyangadze concurred with the ruling.

Mr Mboko argued that the strike was ended by a defective order and that Minister Goche's order was an afterthought that could have been issued some four or five days later. On that basis, Mr Mboko argued that the proceedings to dispose of the strike should be terminated without hearing arguments on the merits.

But Mr Matsikidze argued that the orders were issued the same day and that there was no basis for the allegations that the order by Minister Goche was issued days later.

He argued that Minister Parirenyatwa was the Acting Minister of Labour in the absence of Minister Goche and that he had authority to sign on his behalf.

But the court queried the existence of the two show cause orders by two different ministers on the same day.

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