SEVEN former Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (formerly Medical Stores Limited) workers have dragged the institution to court demanding compensation for the harsh and inhumane manner in which they were treated after being subjects of investigations since August 2018, without a logical conclusion.
This a matter in which Jordan Mumba, former assistant manager customer service centre; Norbert Mulilo, assistant manager customer service centre; Sebastian Nchimunya, inventory officer; Kendrick Kabunda, checker; Samuel Mushiba, assistant manager inventory; Floyd Mumba, assistant distribution coordinator and Davies Ponde, distribution coordinator have sued the institution in the Lusaka High Court Industrial Relations division seeking damages over breached employment contracts through indefinite suspension among others.
According to the affidavit, Mumba stated that on 28th August 2017, the group of employees was isolated from other MSL employees and handed over to the Zambia Police who subsequently confiscated their personal mobile phones for alleged forensic investigations, adding that their gadgets were seized without search warrants.
They stated that they wrote to the employer complaining about the manner in which they were isolated and how the investigations were being done in addition to the manner in which their phones were seized.
They stated that in response, MSL, through then managing director Chikuta Mbewe stated that the police were in constant touch with him over the said investigations and directed that any grievances on the matter could be directed to him.
Mumba added that since August 27, 2017, the complainants had been subjected to prolonged investigations, treated in a discriminatory manner by the company who further denied them freedom of movement.
He added that they were a subject of threats, intimidation, and manipulation and labelled as thieves.
The seven employees were on June 18, 2019 suspended from work indefinitely with restrictions not to travel outside the jurisdictions of Lusaka and put on half salaries over alleged diversion of medicines and medical supplies from the institution.
Mumba stated that after the group, through its lawyers, wrote to the institution and copied the labour commissioner, the Attorney General and the Ministry of Health on June 28, 2019, over the manner in which they were suspended from work without following the due process and procedure of the disciplinary code, the suspensions were lifted and they were told to exculpate themselves over the alleged loss of stock for the period 2014 to 2017.
Mumba further stated that on July 9, 2019, the employees were again indefinitely suspended from work over the same allegations and again put on half salaries and a travelling ban was imposed.
They stated that as a result of the unfounded allegations and the unfavourable situation created by MSL, the employees tendered in forced resignation letters which were readily accepted by the company.
Mumba further stated that on February 4, 2020, they were summoned to appear before the Zambia Police antifraud unit at Lusaka Headquarters without MSL exhausting the internal company disciplinary procedure and had since been told to be appearing before the police to answer to the said allegations of theft of HIV test kits and medicines.
He added that despite the investigations being carried out by various agencies such as DEC, Zambia Police, USAID investigator general, UNDP/Global Fund, the task force on pilferage of medical supplies without success, the investigations report released by the Global Fund did not mention any of the complainants in their findings.
“That we have been advised by our lawyers and very believe the same to be true that we have been constructively dismissed due to the respondent’s behaviour which has been deliberately and carefully calculated to frustrate us as demonstrated above. That we have been advised and verily believe the same to be true that the conduct of the respondent towards the complainants was in clear breach of their respective contracts of employment, the Zambia employment code and in bad faith and as such the complainants have suffered mental torment, anguish, embarrassment and shock as a result of the respondents conduct,” read the affidavit in part.
In the notice of complaint, the seven aggrieved are seeking a declaration that they were constructively dismissed and that there was failure on the company’s part to observe basic rules of natural justice.
They are further seeking an order of the court for damages to compensate the complainants for the harsh and inhuman manner in which they were treated causing undue embarrassment, physical and mental torture and distress to them.
The complainants are also seeking damages for breach of respective employment contract, interest and any other relief the court may deem fit.