HomeLocal NewsPetrotrade bosses case thrown out

Petrotrade bosses case thrown out

THE High Court has thrown out an urgent chamber application by ex-Petrotrade bosses on unfair suspension and termination of employment as the matter failed jurisprudence.

The applicants, Cougan Matanhire and Nomsa Chitsaka, were chief operating officer and business development director, respectively.

In his judgement, High Court Judge Justice Owen Tagu said the matter was a labour issue, which should have been brought before the Labour Court.

He ruled that jurisdiction was declined and the matter removed from the roll. Justice Tagu also ruled that the parties shall bear the costs.

“In the present matter, the complaint by the applicants is that their placement on mandatory leave by the respondent is unlawful. This is purely a labour issue, which should have been brought before the Labour Court,” Tagu ruled.

He said he agreed with the counsel for the respondents that they had approached the wrong court.

“Clearly this court has no jurisdiction to deal with labour issues despite that they are also seeking a declaratur. I therefore agree with the counsel for the respondent that the applicants approached the wrong court. The cause of action as is apparent from the founding affidavits of the applicants is labour related,” Justice Tagu ruled.

“From the cases cited above it is trite that although this honourable court has original jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters, it does not have jurisdiction on labour matters even if what is being sought is declaratory relief. I therefore decline to exercise my jurisdiction in this matter.”

The judge said it is a waste of time to deal with the issue of urgency because the court had no jurisdiction to deal with a labour matter.

The duo was suspended before their contracts were subsequently terminated for “unknown reasons”.

They were seeking that the courts make a determination that Petrotrade’s directive was unlawful, null and void.

According to court papers, on July 4, 2021, Petrotrade, through a public advert, invited persons to apply for the position of chief executive officer.

The applicants (Matanhire and Chitsaka) tendered their applications on July 15 and they were subsequently invited on September 15 the same year to undergo a psychometric test, and thereafter interviewed by the board through a Zoom conference.

On October 18, 2021 upon the invitation of the full board of directors of Petrotrade, the applicants made a strategy presentation, illustrating how, if offered the position, they would make the company one of the top three fuel companies in the country within six months.

“We were advised by the chairman that this process would take some time as it required security vetting and clearance.  We were informed that in light thereof and pending such vetting we would be offered the position of chief operations officer to ensure for the immediate implementation of the company’s turnaround strategy,” they further stated.

Matanhire in his application said he accepted the offer of chief operations officer and resigned from his previous employer and assumed new duties on November 22, 2021.

They got employed but eventually got fired through a text message.

Petrotrade’s core business is procurement and sale of petroleum products.

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