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Fired teacher fights back dismissal 10 years later

By Mashudu Netsianda

A Plumtree teacher who was fired 10 years ago for extending her maternity leave by four days, has taken Primary and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavima and the Public Service Commission (PSC) to court challenging her dismissal.

Professor Paul Mavhima, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education
Professor Paul Mavhima, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education

Ms Buhle Sibanda, who was employed at Hlanganani Primary School in Mangwe District, was discharged from service in 2008 without an internal disciplinary hearing.

Ms Sibanda has filed an application for review at the Bulawayo Labour Court citing Prof Mavima, the PSC and the Provincial Education Director for Matabeleland South Mr Nelson Masukume as respondents.

She wants an order nullifying her dismissal and directing the respondents to reinstate her without loss of salary and benefits with effect from July 31, 2008.

In her grounds of appeal Ms Sibanda, who is a self actor, said the respondents erred when they ceased her salary without due process.

She said the respondents misdirected themselves by discharging her in terms of section 63 (e) of the Statutory Instrument 1 of 2000 basing on unsubstantiated evidence.

Ms Sibanda said her salary was ceased long before the dismissal which was not even preceded by a disciplinary hearing.

“The gross misdirection of the respondents are exacerbated by the fact that in all this mayhem, the appellant was never notified of the decisions before or even after it was taken, thus denying me my right to be heard, which is a violation of my right to administrative action that is fair and procedural,” she said.

Ms Sibanda argued that there was no proof that she was not at work at that particular time.

According to court papers, Ms Sibanda’s maternity leave ended on April 5, 2008, and the schools re-opened on April 29. During her leave she had embarked on a short computer course. She said on April 30, she didn’t report for duty because she was writing a test.

“I had a computer test on April 30, 2008, the very same week schools re-opened for second term. I wrote a letter to my headmistress, Ms Prisca Nyathi, informing her about my absence from school due to the test. In my letter, which I sent three days earlier via the senior teacher, I clearly stated that I would be absent from work for four days,” said Ms Sibanda.

She said she was shocked when she didn’t receive her July 2008 salary.

“I was shocked when I didn’t receive my July salary and when I enquired with the headmistress she feigned ignorance despite the pain and suffering I went through as a result of that development, I continued providing my services under those difficult conditions coupled with the fact that I had a six-month-old baby,” she said.

Ms Sibanda, who is now doing voluntary work at Nduna Primary School in Bulawayo, said despite making frantic efforts following up the matter there was no joy. She only received a letter of dismissal in November 2014.

She said the cessation of her salary arbitrarily by the respondents was unlawful and unjustifiable in terms of relevant statutes.

However, the dismissal letter signed by the former PED for Matabeleland South, Mrs Tumisang Thabela, stated that Ms Sibanda was absent from work for a continuous period in excess of 30 days without having been granted leave of absence. The Chronicle