Home » General » NSSA to Pay U.S $700k Damages to Sacked Employee

THE National Social Security Authority has been ordered to pay almost a million dollars to a former senior officer, Mr Edwell Maposa, in a 12-year labour dispute in which the authority sought to turn around a High Court ruling which set aside the employee’s dismissal.

A Labour Court has for the umpteenth time ruled against NSSA despite the authority’s attempts to avoid paying damages to Mr Maposa, in the process incubating his award to run to almost $1 million.

Mr Maposa, through his lawyer Mr Tendai Biti of Tendai Biti Law, had claimed more than $1,2 million as damages for illegal dismissal and backpay among other damages. NSSA is being represented by Mr Innocent Chagonda, a former board chairman of the authority. But arbitrator Mr Sam Mugumisi awarded Mr Maposa a total of $721 048,24 in damages last week.

In a case which exposes the authority’s handling of workers’ issues despite it being an organisation entrusted with overseeing workers’ social welfare, NSSA has shifted goalposts to avoid paying damages and outstanding salaries to Mr Maposa.

Mr Maposa was in 2002 suspended and subsequently dismissed from his employment at NSSA after a disciplinary hearing which was not properly constituted. Mr Maposa had been in Grade 13 according to the NSSA grading system.

In September 2004 High Court judge Justice Lavender Makoni set aside his dismissal.

Despite the court ruling NSSA went on to argue the same case before a labour officer, Ms Dubile, who, however, aised the authority to abide by the High Court order by either reinstatement or payment of severance damages in lieu of reinstatement. NSSA then opted to pay damages in lieu of reinstatement and invited Mr Maposa to quantify his damages through a letter written by the authority’s head of human resources Mr Mafunda.

In November of 2008 a meeting to discuss damages was held at NSSA’s lawyers, Atherstone and Cook, and attended by the authority’s human resources manager, Mr Shadaya, labour relations officer and Mr Maposa’s legal team.

Negotiations started and the parties agreed in principle on most issues except few areas which NSSA human resources said they wanted to consult their chief executive, board and legal counsel. Mr Maposa was handed a letter to report for duty and this sparked a legal bat- tle.

Surprisingly a year later, NSSA has shifted goalposts and instead ordered Mr Maposa to return to work. Mr Maposa’s lawyers argued that NSSA must not renege on the option it had initially taken to pay damages but revert to the table to finalise damages.

After a protracted wrangle, in June last year arbitrator Mr Mugumisi ruled that NSSA had deliberately not complied with the High Court ruling and therefore its offer for Mr Maposa to return to work was not genuine.

“The dismissal of the respondent was unlawful (as noted above). The claimants acted unprocedurally and therefore from the word go when it failed to comply with the High Court order to reinstate the respondent. All subsequent actions taken by the claimant were therefore fatally unprocedural and unlawful because they were premised on a basis that was null and void,” Mr Mugumisi said.

NSSA in its latest submissions has changed goalposts to opt to pay damages as at 2008 and in Zim dollars.

However, the arbitrator ruled that the damages be paid in US$ as the Zim dollar has ceased to be legal tender.

Mr Maposa claims that NSSA is being vindictive. He says NSSA has shown typical arrogance and hubris, exploitation and hypocrisy.

He says there can never be a “higher case of gross abuse and exploitation and mistreatment of an employee particularly from a public-funded organisation which after all has the mandate of looking after workers’ interests”.

Source : The Herald