State entities join firing bandwagon

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter—
Parastatals and State-linked enterprises have joined the bandwagon of firms that are firing employees upon issuing them with three months’ notices following a recent Supreme Court ruling permitting that. Information gathered yesterday showed that many parastatals offloaded an undisclosed number of employees last week.

The Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) confirmed that it had laid off about 50 employees, although unconfirmed reports say more than 300 employees were sent packing.

Zinara board chairman Mr Albert Mugabe said: “If Zinara were to terminate 300 contracts, there would be no one left. Sending people home was a last resort and one that we really tried to keep to a minimum. In total the figure is less than 50. However, a big chunk of management was affected.

“It’s also important to note that reduction of the number of employees is just one of a raft of measures that we have instituted to rein in our admin costs.”

The Central Mechanical and Equipment Department (CMED) also dismissed almost 200 employees last week.

A letter signed by the acting managing director, Mr Tambirai Nhongonhema to the dismissed employees reads: “This letter serves to inform you that the business has decided to terminate your employment contract on notice. This is not a dismissal but rather the exercise of our right under common law, which allows either party to terminate the employment contract on notice.

“In accordance with provisions of Section 12 (4) of the Labour Act, we hereby give you three months notice to terminate your contract of employment. The notice shall start to run on delivery of this letter to you or to the domicile that you chose under your employment contract or such address notified to the human resources by you in writing.”

A highly-placed source confirmed saying, “Yes, we sent home 200 workers last week.”

National Railways of Zimbabwe was also reported to have fired more than 300 employees, but the company’s public relations manager Mr Fanuel Masikati declined to comment on the matter.

Air Zimbabwe and Zimpost were said to have served an undisclosed number of employees with contract termination letters.

The national airline’s acting chief executive Mr Edmund Makona, yesterday was not answering his phone to clarify the matter.

Zesa was also reported to have done the same but its spokesperson Mr Fullard Gwasira yesterday denied the claim.

“As Zesa, we always seek to maximise shareholder and customer service value,” he said. “As a result, processes are always looked at to make them more efficient and cost-effective to stakeholders but Zesa is not retrenching at the moment.”

But, a Zesa manager who declined to be named said, “Those who have been dismissed have had their contracts terminated before the Supreme Court ruling. However, this is not to say there is nothing of that nature because management might have to sit with human resources management without the knowledge of other managers.”

Labour expert Mr Rodgers Matsikidze, yesterday said even if the law was to be amended there would be no recourse for those who have already been affected.

He said it was imperative for Government to intervene by way of a Statutory Instrument like what happened in the case of PSMAS.

“Those people who have been dismissed have gone just like that,” he said.

“There will be no package for them and after three months, those people will be social welfare dependants.

“Government should have put in place a provisional law like what happened to PSMAS. If you can protect PSMAS, why can’t you protect workers?”

It is understood that more 9 000 people have lost their jobs since the Supreme Court ruling of July 17, and trade unions are appealing for a presidential decree to stop the unilateral sacking of employees.

Government has appealed to companies to exercise maximum restraint, while the Labour Act is being amended.

Meanwhile, President Mugabe will not invoke Presidential Powers to stop wholesale job losses triggered by the recent Supreme Court ruling.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, speaking in Parliament last Wednesday, said President Mugabe could not intervene as the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Prisca Mupfumira was working on strategies to address the situation.

He said it was not necessary for Government to invoke Presidential Powers until Minister Mupfumira, mandated to deal with the matter, seeks those powers.

He was responding to MDC-T Mkoba legislator Amos Chibaya, who had asked if Government had any intentions to invoke Presidential Powers to avert the decimation of the country’s labour force.

“May I advise the Honourable member that the structure of Government is such that mandates are given to particular ministers and until the minister who has the mandate to deal with that issue seeks those powers, it is not necessary for us to intervene,” said VP Mnangagwa.

“I’m aware of what the Minister is doing because that is not the only avenue available to the Minister to deal with the situation. There are other avenues and legal approaches which can be used, which are faster than using Presidential Powers to deal with the issue.

“I am fortunate that I am also the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, so I am fully aware of what the Minister has crafted and what the Minister will soon present as a solution to the challenge.”

VP Mnangagwa, who commended the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Union (ZFTU) for taking part in a meeting convened last Monday by Government to finalise amendments to the Labour Act, said Government was also studying the judgment.

The MDC-T-aligned Zimbabwe Congress for Trade Unions (ZCTU) snubbed the meeting.