Natfoods loses racial discrimination case

Natfoods loses racial discrimination case National Foods
National Foods

National Foods

Business Reporter

In a case which exposes racial discrimination at Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed National Foods, the Labour Court has upheld a 2011 decision to compensate a black manager following revelations of salary disparities with white managers. The Bulawayo Labour Court threw out Natfoods’ condonation application after the company had failed to pay $13 600 to then group human resources manager Mr Alexander Imbayago.Mr Imbayago had obtained a court order in 2011 which forced Natfoods to pay following a wage disparity between him and a junior white counterpart.

In dismissing Natfoods condonation, the Labour Court found that the appeal was not filed at the Labour Court.

“It is clear that although a notice was filed as seen by the High Court, it had not been processed at the Labour Court, it was not before the Labour Court,” said Justice Mercy Moya.

Justice Moya reprimanded lawyers representing Natfoods for employing delaying tactics over the matter.

“The application given for the delay is not acceptable in the circumstances. The applicant’s lawyers are very senior and astute lawyers and such conduct is not expected from them at all,” ruled Justice Moya.

“In case, there is an inordinate delay whose explanation is not acceptable and there are no prospects of success on appeal. The application for condonation is, therefore, dismissed with costs on a higher scale,” ruled Justice Moya.

The judgment was passed after Natfoods had failed to honour court order since 2010 and has been in and out of court trying to appeal the judgment of 2011 without success.

According to court papers seen by The Herald Business, Mr Imbayago, in October 2010, confronted company directors when he discovered he was being paid $900 while the white recruit, one Matthew Louw, who was appointed sales manager was earning $2 000.

Mr Imbayago took action on a salary dispute arising from a salary disparity between himself and a white junior employee who got employed by the company and started earning $2 000 per month.

Despite having served at senior managerial level for 23 years, Mr Imbayago earned $900 per month compared to his white counterpart.

Upon action by Mr Imbayago, it is alleged that Natfoods executive management then attempted to transfer Mr Imbayago to Harare from Bulawayo to assume a new position, a matter that subsequently became part of the arbitration proceedings.

On May 10, 2011 an arbitrator ruled that Mr Imbayago be paid $2 600 backdated to May 2011 from October 2010 and ordered the cancellation of the transfer to Harare.

Lawyers who represented Natfoods that time told the court that they had advised the respondent to pay as directed.

However, Natfoods refused to comply with the order and continued to pay $900 per month in violation of the order until August 2013 when Mr Imbayago was put on retirement.

The arbitral award of May 2011 was not appealed by Natfoods and in July 2013 the arbitrator quantified Mr Imbayago’s dues as per arbitral order of May 2011 and a ruling was made which directed Natfoods to pay $13 600 being the difference between $2 600 and $900 backdated to the period between October 2010 and May 2011.

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