By Sij Ncube
HARARE – Opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai was Tuesday left sweating after the Messenger of Court attempted to seize personal property at his Highlands home and party offices over a labour dispute with former party employees.
Tsvangirai and his formation of the MDC have been embroiled in a land dispute with 17 former employees who sued the party after being fired for siding with former party secretary general Tendai Biti and others that later formed a splinter party – MDC Renewal Team.
But there was drama at Tsvangirai’s house early Tuesday as two truckloads of armed riot police and state media journalists accompanied the Messenger of Court as he drove into Tsvangirai’s mansion in what his spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka described as a “cheap, well-choreographed drama ostensibly to embarrass” the MDC leader.
Neighbours stood in the streets to watch as the Messenger of Court and his entourage tried to force their way into the mansion of the former prime minister in broad day light.
After failing to gain access, the Messenger of Court proceeded with his entourage to Harvest House, the MDC-T headquarters, ostensibly to attach the party property as in what he said were part of the efforts to recover money due to the former party employees who had successfully sued the opposition leader and the party.
“Curiously, the Messenger of Court wanted to attach President Tsvangirai’s property at his Highlands home when the party leader was never part of the dispute. However, the well-choreographed team (of) the messenger of court, journalists and armed riot police moved from Highlands to Harvest House, where the President was having his meetings.
“Upon arrival, the messenger of court, with his retinue of riot police in tow, was shown a court order in which the party had successfully won a stay of execution on the matter. The Messenger of Court, the riot police and the state media journalists left Harvest House with their tails firmly tucked between their legs when the plot to tarnish President Tsvangirai and the party leadership dismally collapsed like a deck of cards,” he said.
Meanwhile, the MDC-T says it stands for workers’ rights in the wake of a landmark Supreme Court ruling which now makes it easier for employers to terminate contracts of employees.
MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu in a statement late Tuesday said the party is totally alarmed and disappointed by the ruling mainly because “it has devastating and far – reaching implications on the country’s labour market.”
“In fact, employers are now at liberty to embark on a wholesale termination of their employees’ contracts of employment without paying any retrenchment packages.
“Whilst the legal reasoning behind the Supreme Court judgment is very sound and beyond reproach, the MDC calls upon the government to immediately amend and /or repeal the Labour Act ( Chapter 28 : 01) In order to protect the rights of workers who are now at the mercy of their employers.
“In particular, Section 12B and Section 12(4) of the Labour Act have to be immediately amended in order for employers to be specifically and unequivocally prevented from terminating an employee’s contract of employment on notice without the need of paying a retrenchment package.”
The party appealed to the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Prisca Mupfumira, as a matter of extreme urgency, to intervene in this depressing state of affairs and invoke the relevant statutory powers in order to protect workers who are now totally at the mercy of their employers.
“Much as we appreciate that the prevailing socio – economic conditions in the country militate against the growth of the economy, the MDC calls upon the Zanu PF regime to show empathy for the plight of workers and thus, move in quickly to rectify this anomalous state of affairs.”
The Supreme Court ruling has created alarm and despondence in the labour market. Radio VOP