Premier Service Medical Aid Society says it will not pay its former group chief executive officer Dr Cuthbert Dube $3 million in backdated salaries awarded by an arbitrator, arguing that his contract had been terminated by the time of the arbitration process. This comes as the public has expressed outrage over a ruling by arbitrator Mr Dumisani Nyoni ordering PSMAS to pay Dr Dube his salary of $230 000 a month backdated to January 2014, plus his full benefits.
In a judgment delivered last Thursday, Mr Nyoni ruled in favour of Dr Dube, awarding him $3 million and ordering his reinstatement.
In an appeal that seeks to suspend the arbitrator’s decision, PSMAS and PSMI — through their lawyer Mr James Chikobvu Muzangaza — said they should wait for determination of the dispute at the Labour Court.
In the case against PSMAS, Mr Muzangaza argued that the arbitrator erred in ordering that Dr Dube be paid his salary arrears at the rate of $138 000 a month, when there was no basis for such.
He argued that Mr Nyoni erred in finding that Dr Dube’s contract of employment subsisted as at the time of the arbitration proceedings, when all facts and circumstances as presented to him and as had been acknowledged by the parties at conciliation stage, showed without a doubt that the said contract had been terminated.
“Arbitrator erred in making an award that is tantamount to making a contract for the parties which neither he as arbitrator nor any court or tribunal can do,” argued Mr Muzangaza.
“Arbitrator erred and misdirected himself in taking into consideration, for purpose of this award, factual averments and legal submissions as made by respondent outside the agreed filing sequence.
“The sum of $92 000 applied in respect of the expired contract, and not in respect of the one that came into operation on 1st January 2014 and which was terminated in February 2014.”
With regards to PSMI, Mr Muzangaza argued that the arbitrator erred in making an order that is equivalent to the reinstatement of Dr Dube without making a provision for damages as an alternative in compliance with certain provisions of the Labour Act.
He argued that the matter for determination was supposed to be on the legality of Dr Dube’s termination of contract.
Mr Muzangaza attacked the arbitrator’s ruling, accusing him of reformatting the issues to suit his purposes, when he was not legally entitled to do so.
Dr Dube had filed two claims demanding his monthly salary of $138 000 from PSMAS and another for $92 000 per month from PSMI.
He was earning a combined $230 000 a month from PSMAS and PSMI when he was forced to resign in January 2014.
In several interviews conducted by The Herald yesterday, the public described the award as biased and only meant to further compromise the already badly indebted medical aid society.
President of the Zimbabwe Democratic Teachers’ Union Mr George Mushipe said Dr Dube should put a human face to the whole PSMAS saga.
“We had already forgotten about his obscene salary and benefits. We are shocked that Dube was even claiming for damages,” said Mr Mushipe. “Honestly, after drawing all that money over the years from PSMAS, he still has the guts to continue milking the same organisation? It seems he wants to see the organisation fold,” said Mr Mushipe.
He said for the arbitrator to rule in favour of Dr Dube was also unfair to PSMAS members who continue to be denied health services as the society fails to settle claims.
“I do not understand how an arbitrator can find anything in favour of Dube who openly abused his office to milk the society. Either Dube or the board that approved his salary should be behind bars,” said Mr Mushipe.
He called for an investigation of the board which approved Dr Dube’s contract saying they also could have milked the society in some way for them to approve such “an immoral contract”.
Other people interviewed said the arbitrator should be investigated, accusing him of making a biased decision in favour of a “flawed contract of employment”.
“I smell a rat in this whole case. His ruling is not right,” said Mrs Rindai Mabwerazuva of Harare.
She said at the time Dr Dube was earning an obscene salary and benefits, PSMAS was failing to pay service providers for services rendered to its members, resulting in a majority of them being turned away without treatment.
“What the arbitrator is saying is that Dr Dube’s salary was justified. Honestly, in this economic environment, how can someone justify such an obscene salary for a CEO of a non-performing organisation?” said Mrs Mabwerazuva.
Others felt that while Dr Dube’s salary and benefits were outrageous, the board which approved them should be answerable to the public.
“Dube did not steal from anyone. His salary and benefits were approved by a board and that board is the one that should be made to answer questions,” said a reader who spoke on condition of anonymity.
PSMAS has since appealed against the ruling at the Labour Court.