By Mashudu Netsianda
FORMER Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko has approached the High Court seeking an order directing the Government, through the Public Service Commission (PSC), to award him more than US$300 000 in benefits and monthly pension payouts.
Mr Mphoko, through his lawyer Mr Zibusiso Ncube of Ncube and Partners, on Wednesday filed an application for declaratur at the High Court in Bulawayo, citing Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, PSC secretary Ambassador Jonathan Wutaunashe, Salary Services Bureau paymaster Mr Brighton Chuzingo and PSC pensions master, one K Makiwa, as respondents.
He wants an order declaring the withholding of his pension by the Government illegal and unconstitutional. Mr Mphoko is also seeking an order directing the respondents to facilitate and pay him US$308 000 or the equivalent in local currency at the prevailing interbank rate.
In his founding affidavit, Mr Mphoko said having joined the civil service in October 1981, he was entitled to his benefits and pension.
“This is an application for a declaratur to declare unconstitutional the withholding of my pension by the respondents and for ancillary relief. I joined the civil service in October 1981 and served as an Ambassador of Zimbabwe to various countries. On December 10, 2014, I was appointed to the position of Vice President of the country, a position I held until I was removed from office in November 2017,” he said.
Mr Mphoko argued that in terms of section 102(3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, he was entitled to a pension which is equivalent to the salary of a sitting Vice President.
“From the time I left office, I have not received a single dime in respect of my pension. The current Vice President receives a monthly salary of approximately US$14 000 or the equivalent at the previous interbank rate. This, therefore, means that to date, the arrears are in the sum of US$308 000 or the equivalent at the prevailing interbank rate. Neither have I received any of my benefits,” he said.
Mr Mphoko said despite approaching Dr Sibanda to assist him secure his benefits, there has been no joy prompting him to approach the courts for a declaratur.
“There is no lawful reason why the pension is being withheld. I engaged the office of the first respondent (Dr Sibanda) to assist in the matter but I have not found any relief. In fact, I was being tossed from pillar to post seemingly with no one prepared to deal with the issue,” he said.
Mr Mphoko said in the event that salaries are adjusted before the order sought is granted, the respondents should pay him at the prevailing interbank rate.
“Let me hasten to mention that even if a declaratur is issued, it may not be an efficacious relief on its own. The respondents should be directed to pay me the sum of US$308 000 or the equivalent at the prevailing interbank rate in respect of my arrear pension, as the cost of living rises daily in Zimbabwe. The value of the money is eroded by inflation,” he said.
Mr Mphoko also wants the court to direct the respondents to pay the legal costs.
Meanwhile, our Harare Bureau reports that Mphoko’s bid to have his passport returned hit a brick wall yesterday after he refused to submit title deeds to his Douglasdale home in Bulawayo as part of the conditions given for the return of the travel document.
Mphoko, through his lawyer Mr Zibusiso Ncube, had applied for the passport to be returned to enable him to travel to South Africa to meet his business associates over five working days.
Mr Ncube assured the Harare Magistrates’ court that Mphoko would not abscond since all his family is in Bulawayo and has business interests in the country.
He also indicated that his client was ready to stand trial at any time.
“My client has never defaulted on his reporting conditions, interfered with State witnesses and has never violated the trust entrusted in him by the court, he strictly adhered to his bail conditions,” Mr Ncube said.
“The administration of justice will not be tempered with if he is given his passport even if we were to be given a trial date tomorrow, the trial will not kick off in five days.”
The State led by George Manokore opposed the application on the basis that the accused had not furnished the court with concrete details of his business trip and has also not complied with the condition set for the release of the passport.
“We told the defence that we wanted security in the form of title deeds to his property namely number 19 Douglasdale Road, Douglasdale in Bulawayo during the five days he will be in South Africa,” he said.
“We had agreed that we will hand over the passport when he gives us the title deeds and we will return them when he comes back from South Africa and surrenders the passport but that did not find favour with the accused person.
“It is our belief that the failure by the accused person to hand over the title deeds points to the fact that he does not want to attach himself to the risk that will arise if he hands over the title deeds.”
Mr Ncube however, argued that it was not proper to view his client as a flight risk without evidence.
He said his client was worried about entrusting the State with his title deeds and had instead offered to surrender share certificates worth US$300 000 that the Government owes him.
“The title deeds are there but we do not trust the State with them. My client is a former Vice President and we might wake up to find that the property belongs to the ruling party,” Mr Ncube said.
He accused the State of having a tendency of expropriating people’s properties.
Harare Provincial magistrate Mr Hosea Mujaya threw out the application on grounds that there was no proof placed before the court that shows the Government owes Mphoko more than US$300 000.
He also indicated that the accused person has immovable property that is his house and other properties but there is lack of trust between the accused and the State.
“The fact that the State is promising to give a trial date does not mean an accused person cannot get his passport but no sufficient facts have been placed before me to support the application.”
Mr Mujaya however, granted another application by the defence to have their court appearance deferred to October 10. The Chronicle