By Mashudu Netsianda
The High Court has nullified a decision by the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church to fire the headmaster of Solusi Adventist High School for allegedly failing to run the school.
Solusi Adventist High School is run by the SDA Church.
It is, however, one of the government-assisted schools with “undefined” partnership between churches and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
The headmaster, Mr Phanson Tshuma, in a letter written by the SDA’s South Zimbabwe Conference education director, Pastor Thamsanqa Ndlovu, was told to vacate office and surrender all school property to his deputy in May this year.
Aggrieved by the church’s decision to terminate his contract of employment, Mr Tshuma through his lawyer Mr Ephraim Ndlovu of Mabundu and Ndlovu Law Chambers, filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court citing Pastor Ndlovu, SDA and Primary and Secondary Education Minister Paul Mavima, as respondents.
Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Maxwell Takuva ruled that Mr Tshuma’s dismissal was unlawful and blocked Pastor Ndlovu from interfering with his duties.
“In the circumstances, it is ordered that applicant be and is hereby authorised to continue with his duties as directed by his employer at the commencement of his transfer to Solusi Adventist High School. The first respondent (Pastor Ndlovu) be and hereby barred from interfering with applicant’s duties as mandated by the third respondent (Prof Mavima) and second respondent (SDA) through its board of directors,” ruled Justice Takuva.
The judge said Mr Tshuma, by virtue of being a civil servant, can only be dismissed or redeployed by the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education in consultation with the Public Service Commission.
He said Pastor Ndlovu had no power to dismiss and evict Mr Tshuma from the school property.
“First and second respondents have no authority to dismiss the applicant as all they can do is to recommend that he be recalled or redeployed. Where good grounds have been set out, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education can suspend applicant pending a disciplinary hearing, which depending on the evidence, may result in applicant’s dismissal or redeployment,” said Justice Takuva.
In his founding affidavit, Mr Tshuma said Pastor Ndlovu and the SDA teamed up and unlawfully terminated his contract after unsuccessfully trying to push him out of the school through a transfer.
He said the SDA had no right to terminate his employment, arguing that its actions were in violation of the Education Act and the Public Service Commission Act.
“First respondent had written to me a letter terminating my employment at Solusi Adventist High School. I fail to make good comprehension of this notice as I am not employed by a ‘Mission’ but I am employed by the third respondent. I am a civil servant and I owe my duties to the Government of Zimbabwe.
When I am crowded in my statutory duties as expected of me by the Public Service Commission, I remain exposed to the whims of the nation’s legal systems and first and second respondents will not be a party to it.”
Mr Tshuma said Pastor Ndlovu devolved powers of school administration to the school’s board of directors.
Pastor Ndlovu, through their lawyer Zibusiso Ncube of Ncube and Partners, opposed the application, argued that the applicant failed to satisfy the requirements for an interdict. The Chronicle