Chief Court Reporter
FORMER NetOne chief executive officer, Lazarus Muchenje, who was recently fired on three months’ notice has lost his case challenging termination of his contract after the High Court ruled that it had no jurisdiction to deal with purely labour matters.
Muchenje has been fired three times since last year, but all termination letters were withdrawn in separate instances after being challenged at the High Court.
Muchenje was seeking an order to quash the termination of his employment contract on notice on December 21 last year.
However, the court threw out Muchenje’s application after hearing preliminary points raised by the employer that he should challenge the termination of his contract in terms of the Labour Act.
In this regard, Muchenje instead of approaching the High Court, should have approached a labour officer who should have determined whether or not there was need to follow the due process when terminating an employment contract on notice.
It was on that basis that Justice Esther Muremba made a finding that the High Court has no inherent jurisdiction to deal with employment matters, its jurisdiction having been restricted by the Constitution which created the Labour Court as a specialist court to handle employment issues.
Justice Muremba said the case was not a matter for an interdict and declaratur, further noting that under the guise of seeking an interdict and declaratur, Muchenje was actually challenging the termination of his employment contract and seeking reinstatement as the CEO of NetOne through the back door.
“In view of the foregoing, I come to the conclusion that I have no jurisdiction to deal with this matter which is an employment matter,” she said. “In the result, it be and is hereby ordered that jurisdiction is declined. The applicant shall pay respondents costs.”
Muchenje was dismissed from NetOne on July 9, but then made an urgent chamber application at the High Court challenging his dismissal and an interim order was granted in his favour suspending the letter of termination.
In his recent application which he filed on December 23, Muchenje challenged his dismissal saying the letter of termination given to him was illegal.
He argued that the letter of termination was illegal and had no force of law in that Muchenje’s contract of employment could not be terminated on notice or in the manner that the employer purported to terminate it.
Muchenje also argued that there was a court order barring the employer from giving effect to a similar letter which sought to terminate his contract on notice.
He further stated that he cannot be dismissed on notice as purported in the said letter in terms of his contract as read together with the Public Entities Corporate Governance general regulations.
President Mnangagwa endorsed the sacking of Muchenje to bring sanity at the State-run mobile phone service provider following long drawn dispute at the firm pitting Muchenje and the Susan Mutangadura-led board.