Net-One followed a wrong legal path in firing its former chief executive officer Lazarus Muchenje when it terminated his employment contract on three months’ notice, the High Court ruled when declaring the letter of his dismissal last year invalid.
However, Muchenje remained fired after President Mnangagwa endorsed his sacking in December last year to bring order at the State-run cellular service provider following long drawn dispute at the firm pitting Muchenje and the board led by Susan Mutangadura.
But the court rulings mean that the financial compensation needs to be negotiated.
Muchenje went to the High Court in July last year seeking to suspend, at least temporarily, the decision by the company’s board to fire him on three months’ notice, hours after he was reinstated by a court order after a previous attempt to get rid of him. He wanted the dismissal suspended until the dispute was settled in court, though he was eventually fired with Presidential approval at the end of last year using the correct law.
When the matter was slated for hearing before Justice Webster Chinamora, he granted the request and deferred the case to August 4, but suspended the termination of Muchenje’s contract until the matter was finalised.
At the time of issuing the interim order, Justice Chinamora wanted to hear argument on the legality of the dismissal of Muchenje, done in terms of the Labour Act and common law, which requires the giving of three months’ notice, and to argue on how the Public Entity and Corporate Governance Act, as read together with Public Entity and Corporate Governance Regulations, applied, in particular Section 11, which provides for the dismissal of a chief executive of a public entity.With two laws, the Labour Act and the Governance Act, the court had to decide which one took precedence when dealing with the chief executive of a public entity.
Section 11 of the regulations when read with Section 16 of the Governance Act provides that “a chief executive of the public entity shall not be dismissed or be required to vacate his or her office unless he or she has been guilty of misconduct inconsistent with the discharge of his or her duties or if he or she failed to comply with conditions of service or provision of the contract . . .”
After hearing arguments, Justice Chinamora found that the two statutes were not inconsistent, but were enacted to deal with distinct areas governing the employment and termination of services of different categories of employees.