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Former NetOne CEO challenges dismissal

By Prosper Dembedza

Former NetOne chief executive officer, Lazarus Muchenje who was recently reinstated and then immediately dismissed on three months notice has filed an application at the High Court challenging termination of his contract.

Lazarus Muchenje

Muchenje was dismissed from NetOne on July 9, but then made an urgent chamber application at the High Court challenging his dismissal and an interim order was granted in his favour suspending the letter of termination.

In his recent application which he filed on December 23, Muchenje challenged his dismissal saying the letter of termination given to him was illegal.

“The letter of termination is illegal and has no force of law in that the applicant’’s contract of employment cannot be terminated on notice or in the manner that the respondents purports to terminate it,” reads the founding affidavit.

Muchenje also argues that there is a court order barring the respondents from giving effect to a similar letter which seeks to terminate his contract on notice.

He further stated that he cannot be dismissed on notice as purported in the said letter in terms of his contract as read together with the Public Entities Corporate Governance general regulations.

“Ässuming but without accepting that the President has given his endorsement which for the avoidance of doubt is disputed, the decision to dismiss the applicant is illegal, arbitrary and affront to the laws of natural justice in that the applicant has never been invited to make any representations.

“In the event that respondents are not interdicted from giving effect to the illegal letter of termination which seeks to circumvent a lawful court order and clear provisions of the law,the applicant will clearly suffer irreparable harm to his clear rights,” reads the founding affidavit.

In dismissing Muchenje, NetOne served him with a letter advising him of termination of his contract.

Muchenje yesterday received a letter of withdrawal of the July termination, signed by the acting chairperson Susan Mutangadura, going beyond the suspension of the termination ordered by the court.

“As you are aware, on 9 July 2020, NetOne Cellular (Pvt) limited delivered a letter to you terminating your fixed terms contract of employment on notice in terms of section 12(4) of the Labour Act.

“You then filed an urgent chamber application seeking to challenge the termination of the contract in case No HC 3611/20.

“The matter was argued before Justice Chinamhora and a judgement in the matter is still pending.

“NetOne Cellular(Pvt) limited hereby withdraws the letter of 9 July 2020 informing you of the termination of your contract. By extension that termination of your contract is hereby withdrawn,” reads the letter.

But Muchenje had no time to celebrate. A second letter arrived.

The letter was again signed by Mutangadura and advising Muchenje of his removal from the position of chief executive officer of NetOne.

“The Ministry of ICT Postal and Courier Services and his Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe have expressed concern about the long drawn out dispute between you and NetOne Cellular Pvt Limited.

“They both note that your relationship with the institution (NetOne Cellular Private Limited) has irretrievably broken down and that it is in everyone’s best interests that the parties disengage,” reads the letter.

It further stated that the President has given his endorsement for Muchenje’s removal from the office of chief executive officer of NetOne.

It further stated that Muchenje’s employment was terminated with immediate effect.

“In the circumstances by this letter and exercising its rights, NetOne Cellular Private Limited hereby terminates your employment contract on three months’ notice.

“Since NetOne Cellular Private Limited does not require your services it hereby waives the need for you to work. You will not be required to report for duty. The notice period will be taken into account in calculating your terminal benefits,” reads the letter. The Chronicle

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