Ruling on NetOne chief’s firing reserved

THE High Court has reserved ruling in the case in which NetOne chief executive Lazarus Muchenje is challenging the decision by the company’s board to fire him on three months’ notice last month, hours after he was reinstated by a court order. The matter was heard yesterday before Justice Webster Chinamora after the NetOne board filed its response to Muchenje’s application to overturn the dismissal pending the final resolution of the labour dispute. After hearing submissions from both parties’ legal counsels, Justice Chinamora reserved his ruling to a later date.

Advocate Wayne Nyamakura argued the matter for Mr Muchenje while Advocate Eric Matinenga acted for NetOne, in the matter in which the court had previously given Mr Muchenje a second reprieve, when it suspended the termination of his employment contract until the NetOne board has a chance to respond to his application.

When the court last month deferred the hearing, Justice Chinamora said he did so to preserve the integrity of the proceedings and the efficacy of eventual order that he would grant after hearing arguments on the merits.

He highlighted the areas, which he required the parties’ lawyers to address.

And yesterday the lawyers addressed the legality of the dismissal of Mr Muchenje, done in terms of the Labour Act and common law, which requires the giving of three months’ notice. The judge, who presided over the chamber application, also heard submission in relation to the Public Entity and Corporate Governance Act, as read together with Public Entity and Corporate Governance Regulations in particular Section 11, which provides for the dismissal of a chief executive of a public entity.

Both counsel were also asked to indicate, which of the Labour Act and Governance Act has precedence over the other.

This is because Section 11 of the regulations when read with Section 16 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 . . .”

Mr Muchenje successfully challenged his original suspension in court, leading to his reinstatement last month, but the board immediately followed “due process” and terminated his services a few hours later, in line with provisions of the Labour Act that allow dismissal on three months’ notice.–

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