Cairns Foods loses $2,6m labour case

Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
A former employee of agro-processing company Cairns Foods Limited, won an award of more than $2,6 million after he was wrongly fired from employment 25 years ago.

Mr Stanford Selemani suffered a mental problem in 1987, resulting in his employment contract being terminated in 1992, on charges of absenteeism.

At the time he was fired, Mr Selemani was reporting for duty religiously. He sought retirement on medical grounds, but the company decided to fire him arguing absenteeism following his admission at Harare Psychiatric Unit for treatment.

Mr Selemani successfully sued the company at the Labour Court and High Court. The courts found that Cairns Foods should have terminated Mr Selemani’s contract on medical grounds, since he had offered to go on health grounds.

Cairns Foods, which has recently exited judicial management after securing an investor to revamp operations, is set to suffer a huge setback as Mr Selemani is now seeking to attach the company’s assets.

He has since obtained a writ of execution, which enables him to attach and auction Cairns property to recover $2 614 380 plus interest that is due to him.

“I am entitled to compensation and punitive damages for the agony and distress I went through over these years at the hands of this company,” said Mr Selemani, who has fully recovered from his illness.

An avid Bible reader, Mr Selemani said the company was now facing the wrath of law for making him suffer.

“The Bible is clear, hate what is wrong,” he said while quoting Romans 12:9, “Stand on the side of the good.”

Mr Selemani alluded to another biblical verse, Romans 13 verse 2, which says: “So, those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow.”

Due to his illness at the time the matter was brought to court years back, Mr Selemani was under the curatorship of his son Brian in terms of the law.

The court appointed Brian as a curator ad litem. A curator ad litem is a legal representative in Scots law and Roman-Dutch law appointed by a court to represent, during legal proceedings, the best interests of a person, who lacks the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

Cairns Foods is now challenging the writ of execution granted against it, saying the curator was not involved in the writ case.

The company, which is being represented by Atherstone and Cook, is arguing that Mr Selemani prosecuted the case against the law, which does not allow a person incapacitated to litigate.

It is also contesting the manner in which the summons and declaration were drafted.

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  • Tatenda

    I am impressed with the way the courts are handling these labour cases, we have employers who are evil, this goes to show whatever evil treatment you give your loyal workers, sooner or later it shall catch up with you. CEOs, Human Resources Managers, Lawyers, Advocates of evil and all other executives be warned of curses upon your families. You will be gone and they will suffer up to the fourth generation. Some of you the punishment will be during your time.

  • N

    Cruel employers the world over should face the music for suppressing employees using their financial muscle

  • John Shumba

    The most unfortunate thing in Zimbabwe is professionalism has gone, we have a lot of professionaly qualified people occupying positions in Industry and Commerce sadly they do not discharge their duties professionaly ie Company Secretaries, Personnel Managers etc, all they do is sing for their supper by lying to their bosses. What could have been a 25 000 Zim dollar payout is costing the company millions in USD. Obviously someone was sleeping on the job. Company Chairpersons and CEOs should be able to interrogate and interface with some of these issues as they will come back to bite.
    Right now they are a lot of cases likely to go before the courts and will be very costly as justice has been denied to a lot workers. Mhosva hairowi.

  • Muzezuru

    While the company treated their former employee unfairly, the award seems excessive. At this rate the economy will not recover, some of the awards by the Labour Court are shocking to say the least. There needs to be balance between compensation and reasonableness. Was this guy the CEO when he was fired? $2.6m, really?

    • Just-In

      justice, the company thought they get away with it since the guy was sick. what people need to understand the amount was brokendown before disqualifying the figure plus salary. for 29years plus benefits.zvekuti company inodakusimuka kana kunyura ndezvavo they were notreasonable when they fired him they wanted him dead so let the company pay

  • Wellington

    And evidence has it he was in hospital, and there was proof of that. The guy should be given his dues

  • Wellington

    Let it be a lesson to these trigger happy and excitable bosses