THE late Vice-President John Landa Nkomo’s company, Astra Building Centre (Pvt) Ltd — now run by his son Jabulani — was yesterday ordered to pay workers a total of $23 072 within 10 days, failure of which a writ of execution will be issued against it to recover the amount.
BY SILAS NKALA
This was after nine employees filed an application at the Bulawayo High Court through a lawyer, Samp Mlaudzi, on June 12 for the registration of their arbitration award for the payment of salaries owed from September 2012 to May 2014.
The company is located at Number 106 Herbert Chitepo Street in Bulawayo.
In a founding affidavit, an employee, Jeshuwa Zvinavashe, on behalf of eight others, stated that in December 2014, they referred a labour dispute for non-payment of their salaries to the National Employment Council for the Commercial Sector.
“The said non-payments were for the period September 2012 to May 2014. On February 26, 2015, the arbitrator issued an award totalling $23 072,” Zvinavashe submitted.
“I, therefore, make this application before this Honourable Court for the registration of the said award.”
The workers were owed amounts ranging from $1 887 to $3 415 each.
Jabulani, the company’s managing director, represented by James Mutsauki, opposed the application on June 29, 2015.
In his opposing affidavit, he said there was no legal bias of such registration.
“Registration of the award pre-supposes a default on the part of the respondent, in casu (in this case) there has been no default,” Jabulani submitted.
“In terms of the Labour Act, an award is registered for the purpose of enforcement. In this case, no enforcement is required or necessary as the respondent is complying with the award.”
Jabulani said the arbitrator ordered the respondent to pay the salary arrears due to the applicants within a period of 13 months, starting in March 2015 and ending at the end of March 2016.
“This application was filed with this court on June 15, 2015. Therefore, the applicant’s complaints must be deemed to relate to the payments due for the months of March, April and May 2015,” Jabulani submitted.
“Even if payment of three months mentioned supra (above) was not made, which is denied, it is incorrect to apply to register and enforce payment of salaries relating months of June 2015 to March 2016 as such payments are not yet due and payable.”
Jabulani indicated that he had since made deductions on workers’ pay for March, April, and May 2015 because they had unlawfully caused the attachment of a bus belonging to the estate of the late John Nkomo, who was a director and shareholder of the company.
He said the bus was now being transferred back to the company. Jabulani’s memorandum states that he deducted a total of $15 000 from the money owed to workers.
“Deductions arise from the loss of business occasioned by the attachment of the bus,” he said. “I pray that this application be dismissed with costs of suit on an attorney and client scale.”
Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Nokuthula Moyo upheld the workers’ application and ordered the company to pay the workers within 10 days before property could be attached to recover the amount owed.
She said Jabulani’s deductions of workers’ money as payment for loss of business was illegal as no court granted him that order.
“You have to pay the applicants their dues because what you say by deducting their money saying they took the bus and it has been damaged so you are deducting their money for that is like you are saying you are the court and we cannot allow you to take the law unto your own hands,” Moyo ruled.