By Mashudu Netsianda
Esigodini Agricultural College principal Mr Bernard Sibanda is under fire for allegedly sexually harassing his female subordinates by exposing his manhood and touching their private parts.
The college principal’s alleged actions saw him being fired by the Ministry of Lands Agriculture and Rural Resettlement on charges of misconduct following a disciplinary hearing.
However, Mr Sibanda (61) got a temporary relief after the Labour Court ordered the Ministry to conduct a fresh disciplinary hearing within a month and a half.
Mr Sibanda is alleged to have sexually harassed female agricultural extension workers and students by asking them to expose their busts for him to see and touching their private parts as well as hugging them.
He was also accused of exposing his manhood to the women by opening the zip of his trousers.
In papers before the court, Mr Sibanda is the appellant while the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Retired Chief Air Marshal Perrance Shiri was cited as the respondent.
Bulawayo Labour Court judge Justice Mercy Moya-Matshanga set aside the dismissal following Mr Sibanda’s application challenging his sacking.The judge ordered the Ministry of Lands Agriculture and Rural Resettlement to conduct a fresh disciplinary hearing within a month and a half as Mr Sibanda was denied legal representation.
She said the denial of legal representation infringes on a constitutional fundamental right and renders any hearing a nullity.
“The application for review succeeds and is hereby granted and the decision of the disciplinary hearing committee be and is hereby set aside. The employer is ordered to conduct a disciplinary hearing within a month and a half after the issuance of this order and to properly conduct the disciplinary proceedings,” ruled Justice Moya-Matshanga.
In his grounds of appeal, Mr Sibanda through his lawyers, Masiye-Moyo and Associates, argued that he was denied his right to legal representation after the respondent refused to postpone the disciplinary hearing when his lawyer, the late Mr Galen Moyo Masiye, was seriously ill and admitted in hospital after undergoing an operation.
“The applicant was accordingly denied the right to hear, counter and test the witnesses’ evidence. Applicant seeks the relief that the outcome of the disciplinary hearing be set aside and that he be reinstated or be paid damages in lieu thereof,” said Mr Sibanda’s lawyers.
According to court papers, Mr Sibanda, who was employed as a principal at Esigodini Agricultural College, allegedly sexually harassed female agricultural extension workers by asking to have sexual intercourse with them.
Mr Sibanda is also alleged to have further abused his office by demanding sexual favours from prospective students seeking to secure places to study at the institution.
He allegedly threatened the complainants that he would not recommend manpower development leave for those who would not have complied with his sexual advances. Following the allegations, Mr Sibanda was charged with misconduct.
He was later arraigned before a disciplinary hearing committee. However, at the time of the disciplinary hearing, Mr Moyo was ill and could not attend the hearing proceedings.
The Ministry of Lands Agriculture and Rural Resettlement continued with the hearing and called witnesses and later convicted and dismissed Mr Sibanda.
In 2014, Gwanda magistrate Ms Sheila Nazombe acquitted Mr Sibanda of charges of indecently assaulting a female extension officer based in Simbumbumbu area in Gwanda district. He was accused of fondling the complainant’s breasts. The Chronicle