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MondayBlues: 40 days has gone by, still no judgment for NetOne CEO Muchenje

The High Court of Zimbabwe is yet to issue a final judgment forty days after the NetOne CEO Lazarus Muchenje made an appeal against his controversial dismal from the state-owned telecommunication company.

Today marks exactly 40 days since the high Court judge Justice Webster Chinamora has been reserving his judgement.

Muchenje challenged his contract termination by NetOne board member on three months’ notice more than a month ago, hours after he was reinstated as the CEO.

Justice Chinamora however had initially ruled in Muchenje’s favour granting him an interim relief order, which reinstated him back as CEO with all benefits, pending finalization of the court case.

The courts have been on a recession, and have just resumed, probably one of the reasons why Muchenje’s case may have taken longer for the ruling to be heard.

The judge gave both parties time to argue on the matter, which in short was bordering around the legal ways of terminating a CEO contract for a state-owned company.

NetOne argued that they have simply reached irreconcilable differences.

When the court last month deferred the hearing, Justice Chinamora said he did so to preserve the integrity of the proceedings and the efficacy of eventual order that he would grant after hearing arguments on the merits.
He highlighted the areas, which he required the parties’ lawyers to address.

Yesterday the lawyers addressed the legality of the dismissal of Mr Muchenje, done in terms of the Labour Act and common law, which requires the giving of three months’ notice.

The judge, who presided over the chamber application, also heard submission in relation to the Public Entity and Corporate Governance Act, as read together with Public Entity and Corporate Governance Regulations in particular Section 11, which provides for the dismissal of a chief executive of a public entity.

Both counsels were also asked to indicate, which of the Labour Act and Governance Act has precedence over the other.

Section 11 of the regulations when read with Section 16 the Governance Act provides that “a chief executive of the public entity shall not be dismissed or be required to vacate his or her office unless he or she has been guilty of misconduct inconsistent with the discharge of his or her duties or if he or she failed to comply with conditions of service or provision of the contract . . .”

At this stage the high court will determine Muchenje’s fate whether he continues as the CEO for the state owned company or reverses its interim relief and supports the termination of the contract.

Either way , the outcome will likely be challenged by both parties as the NetOne showdown continues. The infighting has not helped the public owned asset, but rather milked it and this matter needs closure in the interest of both stake and stockholders.

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