The Labour Court has awarded a production manager at the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) Sh514,000 as damages for unlawful dismissal after he was accused of embarrassing the government during a State visit by a foreign president.
Nelson Wambua was sacked for delaying slaughter of animals during a visit by Seychelles President Danny Faure in April 2017, an action that was said to have embarrassed Kenya's government and the Presidency.
On April 4, 2017 there was a planned visit by the President of Seychelles which was intended to open a trade partnership with KMC to permit export of livestock products to the Indian Ocean archipelago.
The heads of departments at KMC were to coordinate the exercise and by the time the visiting President arrived together with his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta, the killing of animals had not started.
Mr Wambua who was in charge of kill at the knocking box is said to have failed in carrying out the slaughters as scheduled.
KMC's Human Resource Advisory Committee on Staff Discipline conducted a preliminary hearing of the botched visit during which it resolved that Mr Wambua and a couple of other employees were culpable. The staff were interdicted to pave way for further investigations.
He testified that he did not have the schedule or programme for the presidential visit and that there was no indication of the time the delegation was supposed to arrive at KMC.
Mr Wambua said that on the material day there was electric failure between 7.15am and 10.00am and that because electricity was critical to slaughter, the staff were deployed elsewhere by his boss.
The President of Seychelles arrived at 10.30am and found there was nothing going on, along with the animals not been selected from the boma to the kill box for slaughter.
He testified that KMC was reopened after a decade of closure during the tenure of President Mwai Kibaki and that he would be recalled whenever the company resumed operations.
Mr Wambua submitted that he was a scapegoat and that he was not issued with a show cause letter, therefore arguing his dismissal was contrary to human resource regulations at KMC and Section 41(1) of the Employment Act.
In his ruling, Justice Nzioki wa Makau said the botched presidential visit was sufficient cause for disciplinary hearings to commence as they did. However, he said Mr Wambua was not served with the notice to show cause.
"The failure to avail him of the opportunity as required rendered the ensuing summary dismissal unlawful. Failure to perform the slaughter operations was as a result of poor planning and even poorer execution which cannot all be lumped on Mr Wambua," stated Justice Makau.
The court found that the management of the KMC failed to plan properly and permitted junior officers to have no clue as to what was happening.
"This is tragic granted the person visiting the premises was a head of state and there was some degree of carelessness in the execution of the visit that the management cannot escape," stated Justice Makau.