DRC war haunts Civil Aviation Authority

Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
The High Court has confirmed an arbitral award compelling the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe to pay $3,1 million to firefighters deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo for operations in the war zone between 1999 and 2004. The confirmation by Justice Esther Muremba yesterday leaves CAAZ at risk of losing property in the event it fails to settle the debt. CAAZ will pay the $3 176 425 plus interest at the rate of 4,3 percent per annum from February 27 2014 to date.

The figure now stands at $3,3 million.

While military personnel were paid their allowances for the DRC duties, 123 civilians did not get their dues and they decided to seek legal recourse.

Arbitrator Mr Phillip Bvumbe last year ruled in favour of the CAAZ workers.

“It is, therefore, ordered that the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe should pay the applicants the outstanding allowances within 14 days from the date of this award,” he said.

“The outstanding amounts will attract an annual interest rate of 4,3 percent from the 27th of February until fully paid.”

Initially, the 123 workers were claiming $4 811 150 from CAAZ, but the parties later agreed on $3 176 425, which was rubber-stamped by Mr Bvumbe.

High Court judge Justice Esther Muremba yesterday registered the award, which makes it executable.

“The application for reguistration of the arbitral award is granted as per the draft order filed of record.

“The respondent shall pay costs of suit on the ordinary scale,” ruled the judge.

Labour lawyer Mr Caleb Mucheche represented the firefighters, while Mr Oscar Gasva of Chirimuuta and Associates acted for CAAZ.

The firefighters were deployed in the DRC in October 1999 at the height of the war between Ugandan and Rwandan-backed rebel groups and the government in Kinshasa. Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Chad deployed in the DRC in support of the government.

The CAAZ workers seconded to the DRC were deployed in groups of nine for periods ranging from one to six months, with rescue and firefighter services based at N’djili Airport in Kinshasa. The workers argued that between 1999 and April 2001, they were supposed to get $75 a day, but this was unilaterally slashed to $50.

From March 2001 to 2004, the daily allowance rates for firefighters was increased from $75 to $250, but they still got $50 a day, leaving CAAZ with a balance of $200 a month for all the firefighters on the DRC mission.