The Labour Court has confirmed the dismissal of a Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) senior manager who was caught peeping into girls’ hostels at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ).
In a ruling that re-affirmed the right of employers to discipline staff for misconduct committed away from duty, the Labour Court dismissed an appeal by former ZIMRA investigations manager, Andrew Shangu, who was fired following an incident in which he was arrested at the UZ and taken to Avondale Police Station where he paid an admission of guilt fine.
The tax collector took Shangu’s infraction so seriously that it instituted disciplinary proceedings that led to his dismissal.
After the harsh verdict, Shangu appealed to the ZIMRA appeals committee, which also endorsed his dismissal.
This resulted in him taking his case to the Labour Court where the appeal was thrown out for lack of merit.
Although admitting that indeed he was caught ogling into female students while they were in their hostels, Shangu based his challenge on the argument that he was charged with a wrong offence.
He said the offence did not fall into a serious category (class D), but a lighter one in category C.
He said it was wrong for ZIMRA to charge him with putting the organisation into disrepute, but that he should have been charged with conduct likely to put the organisation into disrepute.
ZIMRA argued that as someone who was known as its manager, Shangu — who had a previous conviction for another serious misconduct for which he was on final warning — had actually put the organisation into disrepute.
“The fact that he (Shangu) is of the view that he should have been charged with a group C offence with a lesser exacting penalty does not assist him in any way,” ruled Labour Court judge, Justice Lillian Kudya.
“It is patently clear that the appellant’s act of peeping into female hostels at the University of Zimbabwe did put his employer’s reputation into disrepute and was clearly inconsistent with his work conditions. The court is satisfied that this appeal ground has no merit at all and it should fail,” she added.
Shangu had also challenged the procedure under which his disciplinary hearing was conducted, arguing that most of the facts were based on hearsay. The court, however, refused to entertain him because he had not denied the charge during the hearing and had even admitted it to the police.
“The law is clear that where the employer takes a serious view of the employee’s infraction no amount of mitigation may stand on the way of a dismissal penalty. In the case at hand, the appellant’s conduct severely dented the respondent’s image and no amount of mitigation could save the appellant.
“Whether the previous conviction was outdated or relevant could not shift the scales to a none dismissible penalty. There is nothing in the findings of all the tribunals below, which demonstrates abuse of discretion as the penalty in the case at hand. This appeal court therefore has no basis to interfere with the penalty meted out in this case. This ground also lacking in merit should fail,” Kudya said. Financial Gazette