Axed Airzim managers challenge Finance Act

Minister of Finance and Economic Development Patrick Chinamasa

Minister of Finance and Economic Development Patrick Chinamasa

Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
The constitutionality of Section 23 of the Finance Act, which protects the property of Air Zimbabwe Holdings (Private) Limited from attachment, has been challenged at the Constitutional Court.

Four former Air Zimbabwe Holdings managers, who are battling to recover their retrenchment packages, argued that the recent amendments to the law were effected to make sure they do not get their retrenchment packages in violation of their constitutional rights.

The amendements, the quartet argued, scuttled their plans to attach and auction the parastatal’s property.

The four are Stephen Nhuta, Kingstone Mbape, Charles Muchenje and Charles Mhonderwa.

When the law was passed, the quartet had been offered retrenchment packages by the airline but $160 000 was still outstanding.

A writ of execution had been issued by the courts to enable the four to attach and auction the company’s property.

The courts had ruled that at the time in question, the airline’s assets were capable of being attached in execution as it was not a successor company to Air Zimbabwe Corporation.

But the recent amendments to the Finance Act now give Air Zimbabwe immunity from attachment.

In a constitutional application filed this week by labour lawyer Mr Caleb Mucheche, on behalf of the quartet, it was argued that the law infringed on the rights of Air Zimbabwe workers.

“I and other applicants have noted that the Finance Act, 2015, particularly Section 23 thereof, infringes upon our fundamental right to equality and the protection of the law, right to private property and labour rights by improperly insulating and shielding the attachment of Air Zimbabwe Holdings (Private) Limited using the State Liabilities Act.

“I respectfully contend that Section 23 of the Finance Act which gives Air Zimbabwe Holding (Private ) Limited’s assets immunity from attachment using the State Liabilities Act is unconstitutional and not reasonably justifiable in a democratic society like Zimbabwe,” the four argued.

The managers argued that Air Zimbabwe Holdings being a private company, should not be protected under the State Liabilities Act.

“The judgment debtor, Air Zimbabwe Holdings (Private) Limited’s assets should be attached to settle the judgment debt it owes us arising from our unpaid retrenchment packages after serving as employees.

“Furthermore, the wording of Section 23 of the Finance Act appears to have a retrospective effect and thus further making it unconstitutional,” they argued.

Nhuta, Mbape, Muchenje and Mhonderwa had served the airline for periods stretching from 30 years to 32 years when they were served with retrenchment letters.

Minister of Finance and Economic Development Patrick Chinamasa, Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Emmerson Mnangagwa and Attorney-General Advocate Prince Machaya, who were listed as respondents, are yet to respond.

The quartet was retrenched in August 2009 with the company citing viability challenges, but the contested amendments to the law were effected six years later.

The case is yet to be set down for hearing at the Constitutional Court.

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