Daniel Nemukuyu Harare Bureau
SOME 123 former Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe fire fighters, who last year attached the company’s fire tenders over unpaid allowances to the tune of $3,1 million, have instructed the sheriff to release the property for security reasons.
The former employees’ lawyer Caleb Mucheche of Matsikidze and Mucheche law firm, wrote to the Sheriff of the High Court instructing him to release the fire tenders considering the dangers associated with operating an international airport without fire engines.
Instead, the ex-workers have instructed the Sheriff to attach any other properties to ensure safety at the country’s international airport.
CAAZ deployed the fire-fighters to the Democratic Republic of Congo for operations in the war zone between 1999 and 2004 but did not pay them the promised allowances.
While soldiers and other personnel deployed to the war zone during that time were paid, the 123 civilians did not get their dues, a development that prompted them to seek legal recourse.
An arbitrator, Phillip Bvumbe, ruled that the workers should get their outstanding allowances.
Acting on the arbitral award, the 123 instructed the sheriff to attach CAAZ property to recover the outstanding $3,1 million.
In a bid to stop the attachment, CAAZ filed an appeal at the Labour Court that was thrown out in May last year.
CAAZ, on the wrong basis that there was still a pending Labour Court appeal, approached the Supreme Court seeking to stop the removal and sale of the attached property.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku on December 23 interdicted the sheriff from executing the order and directed the Registrar of the Supreme Court to set down the matter for hearing at the earliest convenience.
However, Matsikidze and Mucheche law firm carried out an investigation and established that there was no pending appeal at the Labour Court and that the matter relied upon by CAAZ had since been dismissed.
Mucheche, on behalf of the 123, filed a supplementary notice of opposition at the Supreme Court informing judges of the discovery.
In light of the latest discovery, the Supreme Court is most likely to nullify and reverse its earlier decision.
This leaves CAAZ’s property exposed to attachment and auctioning.
In a letter to the Sheriff dated January 5, 2016, Mucheche indicated that the attachment of fire tenders would compromise safety at airports.
“Our clients have noted that the attachment and removal of fire tenders unnecessarily makes the airports of our beloved country hazardous places, something undesirable for our nation.
“Without conceding to the aforementioned ill-fated application filed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe but solely on the basis of patriotism and humanitarian grounds to maintain safety as an essential service at our national airports, our clients hereby instruct you to immediately release the judgment debtor’s fire tenders, which you attached in judicial execution of a legally valid and extant High Court judgment…”
In the event that the Supreme Court case is thrown out, the ex-workers said they will instruct the sheriff to attach any other property from CAAZ.
In October 1999 at the height of the bloody war between the rebel groups and the DRC government, the fire-fighters were deployed to DRC and they operated from there until January 2004.
The workers that were seconded to DRC were deployed in groups of nine for periods ranging from one to six months and the rescue and fire fighter services was based at N’djili Airport in Kinshasa.
The workers argued that between 1999 and April 2001, they were supposed to get $75 per day but it was unilaterally slashed to $50 without being consulted.
For the period in question, the fire fighters were paid $50 per day leaving a balance of $25 per day for the workers.
From March 2001 to 2004, the daily allowance rate for fire-fighters was increased from $75 to $250, but they still got $50 per day for that period, leaving CAAZ with a balance of $200 per day for all the fighters who were on the DRC mission during the period in question.
They took the employer to an arbitrator after they did not get their outstanding allowances.