GWERU WATER WORKERS’ COMMITTEE
CITY OF GWERU
SUPREME COURT OF ZIMBABWE
MALABA DCJ, GARWE JA & HLATSHWAYO JA
HARARE, SEPTEMBER 29, 2014
A Mugandiwa, for the appellant
T Magwaliba, for the respondent
MALABA DCJ: At the end of the hearing, the Court dismissed the appeal with costs having determined that it was without merit. It was indicated that the reasons would follow in due course. These are they.
The appeal is from the decision of the Labour Court holding that the appellant had no locus standi in the proceedings before it. The question for determination is whether a universitas personarum at common law can substitute itself for a workers committee created by statute and enforce its statutory rights which can only be enforced by a workers committee in terms of the Labour Act.
The facts are common cause. The appellant is a voluntary association of former members of the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA). On 29 January 2009, while presenting the National Budget for the Year 2009, the acting Minister of Finance announced the Government’s decision to decentralise the management of the use of water to local authorities with effect from 1 February 2009. As a result of the decision, management of the use of water in Gweru was transferred to the respondent together with the employment of the appellant’s members in the undertaking in terms of s 16(1) of the Labour Act (“the Act”). The respondent engaged the appellant’s members on terms and conditions inferior to what they enjoyed at ZINWA immediately prior to the transfer. The appellant took up a complaint of an unfair labour practice with a labour officer alleging that the respondent’s conduct was in breach of s 16(1) of the Act. A certificate of no settlement was issued and the matter was referred to compulsory arbitration. The appellant did not act to represent the case of the employees but acted in their place as the possessor of the rights it sought to vindicate. In other words it sued in its name.
On 14 January 2010, the appellant obtained an arbitral award in its favour as against the respondent. The parties approached the arbitrator for the quantification of the award. A hearing was conducted on 7 April 2010 and the arbitrator issued an arbitral award on 30 April to the effect that the award of 14 January 2010 was to be enforced in terms of a table from ZINWA showing the wages and salary rates that the appellant’s members enjoyed as at the date of transfer from ZINWA to the Gweru City Council. On 26 May 2010 and 27 July 2010, the arbitrator issued further awards dealing with the implementation of the original award of 14 January 2010. A deadlock ensued between the parties and the arbitrator on the meaning of the awards. On 30 August 2010 the arbitrator issued what he termed an “interpretation award”.