Former Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) Executive Director for operations Paul Siame has won the court case in which he sued the government investment portfolio and its shareholders for unlawfully terminating his contract of employment.
High Court judge Edward Musona ruled that Siame’s dismissal was unfair and unlawful because no hearing was held, adding that when IDC terminated his employment without hearing him, they acted in breach of the rules of natural justice.
In this matter, Siame was claiming for a declaration that his contract of employment was unlawfully terminated, a declaration that he was unlawfully dismissed, damages, payment of all accrued benefits and contractual entitlements, interest on all sums found due, costs and reliefs.
He claimed that although he was charged with insubordination, there was no disciplinary hearing for his case.
Siame further claimed that it was illegal for the IDC shareholders, who were the Minister of Finance and Secretary to the Treasury, to terminate his contract, when it was the IDC board which hired and signed his employment contract.
IDC was represented by Lubinda Linyama of Eric Silwamba and Company while Siame was represented by former Attorney General, Musa Mwenye of Mwenye and Mwitwa Advocates. The IDC shareholders who were second respondents in the matter, were represented by Salome Chomba Sakala.
And in a judgement delivered, Friday, judge Musona said the facts of the case showed that the dismissal of Siame was unfair because he wasn’t given a hearing.
“Unfair dismissal is a dismissal where an employee is not given a hearing or where the hearing process was unfair. I have found that the complainant’s dismissal was unfair because no hearing was held. What this means is that when the respondents terminated the employment of the complainant, they acted in breach of the rules of natural justice and it is this breach which made the termination of his employment unfair,” he said.
Judge Musona further said, a scrutiny of Siame’s letter of termination of employment revealed that no reason was given for terminating his employment.
He therefore declared that Siame’s termination of employment was unfair and unlawful.
“This also made the termination of the complainant’s employment unlawful. To dismiss an employee without according him an opportunity to be heard, as the respondents did in this case, is a blatant breach of the rules of natural justice and violates the principle of audi alteram partem. I declare that the complainant’s termination of employment was unfair and unlawful,” ruled judge Musona.
He ordered a block award of three months salary for Siame’s unlawful and unfair dismissal.
“I have looked at the circumstances of this case and I am satisfied that a block award of three months salary for unlawful and unfair dismissal shall suffice,” judge Musona ordered.
He however, dismissed Siame’s claim for damages for mental distress and inconvenience, saying no evidence was shown to prove the degree of mental distress and inconvenience suffered, if any.
On Siame’s claim for payment of all accrued benefits and contractual entitlements, judge Musona referred the item to the Registrar for assessment of what was due to him as terminal benefits.
“The complainant’s main complaint is that when he was paid his terminal benefits the computations were wrongly done. I shall refer this item to the Registrar for assessment of what is due to the complainant as terminal benefits. The computation shall include all the contractual entitlements due to the complainant such as fuel allowance, talk-time allowance and the alike,” he ruled.
“If after assessment it shall be found that the complainant was paid less than what was due to him, then, he shall be paid the difference. If, on the other hand, it shall be found that he was inadvertently paid more than what was due to him, there shall be no refund to the respondents because the computations were done by the respondents themselves and the complainant was not privy to it. Also , because the employer has a deeper pocket, it is not the interest of this division to burden workers with orders for payment of money to their former employers.”
He said Siame’s successful claims shall attract interest at the Bank of Zambia short term rate from the date the complaint was filed up to judgment date, and therefore, at the current Bank of Zambia lending rate.
Judge Musona further ordered costs in favour of Siame.
He granted leave to appeal.