The ongoing circus at NetOne is far from ending that it has become an ugly pathetic circus needing to be stopped in the interest of saving a public company funded by tax payers money.
Unfortunately, the powers that be are entangled in the battle of the stomach.
This of-course has been the biggest problem at NetOne, way before there was even the new ICT minister Hon Muswere, there were serious problems at NetOne that are not ending.
The same problems that Reward Kangai faced at NetOne , were faced by Brian Mutandiro, now Lazarus Muchenje and even if Muchenje goes, the next CEO is not safe at NetOne if we do not deal with the main problem.
There is nothing special about Muchenje, the battle must not be about him but basic corporate governance issues.
Today I will deal with the matter from a legal perspective, this is basic legal interpretation of any judgement that any law student is easily acquainted with.
The learned High court judge made a land mark ruling that any sitting CEO for a state owned company can not be dismissed through the notice of termination route.
High Court Judge Justice Chinamora stated that the termination of a CEO of a State Owned Enterprise (SOE) should be done in accordance with the Public Entities and Corporate Governance Act, and not in terms of the Labor Act.
This statement alone simply states that any CEO for a state owned company fired after the Public Entities and Corporate Governance Act was enacted, was illegally fired.
This ruling is a landmark one and sets a strong judicial precedence over all matters regarding how to fire a CEO for state owned companies.
The case is basic and crystal clear and no lower court can have judicial jurisdiction over such a matter, when a higher court has decided.
Whether NetOne had withdrawn their termination or not prior to the judgment is just technical, the fact is that they still fired their CEO again in an illegal manner, and that revokes and nullifies their letter.
Unfortunately the NetOne case is more personal than technical or legal, it seems the cartel behind Muchenje’s dismissal is so desperate and blinded by their emotions to a point that they can’t interpret this simple ruling.
Instead of fighting in courts and messing up their names which #MondayBlues has received and will soon throw to the pigeons, the cartels dealing with the NetOne issue must have learnt by now that they are not winning the legal battle and must respect the rule of law and drop the mafia style of administration.
Muchenje must be fired legally, and must go if not needed at NetOne in the interest of the public company to perform well, as he has no right to hold on where he is no longer wanted as well, but it also has to be clear , who exactly no longer wants Muchenje at the public company.
NetOne is not like Econet, a private company, and no individual has more interests than the public that gets taxed and fund the company, to which Zimbabweans have a stake in NetOne and no private citizen must be allowed to run it as though it is his or her own tuckshop.
Mature stakeholders who represent the public company must have simply called for a closed door meeting with Muchenje, clearly ushered their direction and vision and explain why he must go, and how he will go, and surely Muchenje then must have responded to the need and left the company.
He himself deserves to move on, fighting for over a year is not good for anyone, but matters needs to be closed amicably and allow the Zimbabwe ICT sector to move on.
In their response to this judgement NetOne noted
NetOne Cellular (Private) Limited made several follow ups on the ruling through its legal practitioners. Despite this being an urgent chamber application, by December 2020 the ruling had not been handed down. NetOne having been seriously prejudiced by the delays in the handing down of the judgment then abandoned the termination of the 9th of July 2020 and reinstated L. Muchenje on the 21st of December 2020 after it was granted approval by His Excellency The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe to terminate L. Muchenje’s contract of employment. The reinstatement of the 21st of December 2020 meant that the termination that had been challenged by L. Muchenje before Justice Chinamora had been done away with. After this reinstatement NetOne Cellular (Private) Limited terminated L. Muchenje’s contract of employment. This termination was also challenged by L. Muchenje in the High Court (L. Muchenje vs S. Mutangadura and Others HC 7653/2020). The application was placed before Justice Muremba who declined jurisdiction on the matter and held that the matter was a labour matter which had to be decided by the Labour Court and not the High Court. Justice Muremba noted in her ruling that L Muchenje was seeking reinstatement through the back door.
This therefore means that the ruling that has been handed down by Justice Chinamora is purely academic, because it has been overtaken by events. The termination that was being challenged in the urgent application that was heard by Justice Chinamora on 4 August 2020 was set aside by NetOne leading to the reinstatement of L. Muchenje on the 21st of December 2020. L Muchenje’s contract was subsequently terminated in December 2020 leading to the ruling by Justice Muremba. This means that there is no judgment that has been issued by the High Court nor the Labour Court setting aside the December 2020 termination of L. Muchenje’s contract of employment following the approval of the termination by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe E.D. Mnangagwa. L Muchenje’s contract of employment remains terminated.
From a layman point of view, this is just going in circles, avoiding the fact that one can not simply fire a CEO of a state owned company using the labour court or notice of termination of contract.
Judicial precedence has been set for that matter and all others pending, Zimbabwe needs men and women who are serious about moving our economy not these hide and seek games at the expense of state coffers.