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Nyarota, ANZ court battle rumbles on

Nyarota, ANZ court battle rumbles on

Geoffrey Nyarota

Published: 22 January 2013

ZIMBABWE – The Labour Court last week granted Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) leave of 10 days to apply for removal of a bar placed on the company in the ongoing labour dispute between the company and one of its co-founders, Geoffrey Nyarota.

Mr Nyarota, the founding Editor-In-Chief of the company’s flagship publication, the Daily News, took ANZ to the Labour Court citing unfair dismissal for alleged breach of contract in May 2010. The case was referred to arbitration where ANZ in defence, claimed that in fact Mr Nyarota did not have a contract of employment, in the first place.

The company repatriated Mr Nyarota from the United States in February 2010 to start work in preparation for the relaunch of The Daily News. After a series of hearings the arbitrator, Mr John Mawire, passed judgement in favour of Mr Nyarota and awarded him a total of $92 000 in damages plus legal costs, after he produced his employment contract.

Acting for ANZ, Mr Mordecai Mahlangu of Gill, Godlonton and Gerrans, appealed against both the ruling and the quantum of damages awarded. This resulted in the Labour Court setting down two hearings. Both ANZ and Mr Mahlangu failed to turn up for the first hearing which was set down for July 12, 2012. On that occasion they also failed to submit the required heads of argument in support of their appeal.

At the second hearing on Thursday they sought a postponement in proceedings because they had been barred from being heard as they had again failed to file their heads of argument.

Advocate Thabani Mpofu, instructed by Mr Mahlangu appeared on behalf of ANZ this time. He said he had come to court on the basis of a misapprehension of the facts. He applied to the presiding officer, the President of the Labour Court, Justice Godfrey Musariri, for postponement of proceedings, saying he wanted to seek full briefing before applying for a lifting of the bar.

Justice Musariri pointed out that the notification of the hearing was very specific in terms of the issues before the court. He however granted the postponement for 10 working days.

Ms Doreen Gapare of Scanlen and Holderness, representing Mr Nyarota, argued that ANZ was merely employing delaying tactics to frustrate her client. She said the company had used this strategy over the past two years.

Ms Gapare said the appellant had, in any case, come to court “with dirty hands” in so far as ANZ has, to date, not paid the damages awarded to Mr Nyarota in February 2012.

Section 92 (e) of the Labour Act stipulates that an appeal lodged at the Labour Court does not suspend the processing in the High Court for payment of awarded damages.

Advocate Mpofu agreed to bear the full legal costs of Thursday’s wasted hearing.