ZIMBABWE PLATINUM MINES (PVT) LTD v PHUTI

SUPREME COURT, HARARE

[Labour Appeal SC 21-16]

March 8, 2016

ZIYAMBI, HLATSHWAYO AND PATEL JJA

Court  – Labour Court  – Appeal  – Effect of failure to set out prayer in an appeal before the Labour Court.

At the hearing of the appeal before the Labour Court, the appellant argued, in limine, that the relief sought by respondent was not stated in the notice of appeal. The respondent countered by applying to amend his notice of appeal so as to incorporate the relief sought. The Labour Court reasoned that labour disputes should not be decided on technicalities and that it was authorised to condone non-compliance with the Labour Court Rules, 2006 (SI 59 of 2006) (“the Rules”). Since no prejudice was alleged or suffered by the appellant, the court condoned the respondent’s failure to comply with the Rules and granted the application to amend the notice of appeal. The objection in limine and the other one taken together with it was dismissed.

Held, that the Rules are not silent as to the contents of a notice of appeal. In addition to setting out the procedure to be followed on appeal, r 15 of the Rules prescribes the contents of a notice of appeal.

Held, further, that it is trite that the Labour Court is entitled to dispense equity in its duty to do substantial justice between the parties. However, it cannot do so outside the confines of the law. Although s 49 (1)(b) of the Labour Act [Chapter 28:01] (“the Act”) allows for flexibility and latitude in the exercise of the court’s functions, it is still required to act subject to such procedures as may be prescribed, i.e. in accordance with the Act and the Rules. A notice of appeal that is not “substantially compliant” with the Rules cannot be saved by the provisions of r 37 of the Rules which allow a party to improvise a notice by making appropriate alterations.

Case cited:

Standard Chartered Bank v Chinyemba 2004 (2) ZLR 197 (S), referred to

Legislation considered:

Labour Act [Chapter 28:01], s 49

Labour Court Rules, 2006 (SI 59 of 2006), rr 15, 26 (a), 37

Labour Relations (Settlement of Disputes) Regulations, 1993 (SI 30 of 1993)

Labour (Settlement of Disputes) Regulations, 2003 (SI 217 of 2003)

Supreme Court Rules, 1964 (RGN 380 of 1964), r 29 (1)

T Mpofu, for the appellant

L Uriri, for the respondent

PATEL JA:

After hearing argument from counsel and following a unanimous decision of the court, the appeal was partially allowed with costs. We further indicated that the reasons for judgment would follow in due course. Those reasons are as follows:

Background

The respondent was employed by the appellant as its Operations Manager. He was charged with several counts of unsatisfactory work performance. He was subsequently dismissed after having been found guilty by the appellant’s Disciplinary Committee. His appeal to the Internal Appeals Committee was unsuccessful and the decision to dismiss him was upheld. He then appealed against that decision to the Labour Court.

At the hearing of the appeal before the Labour Court, the appellant herein raised two points in limine, the first being that the relief sought was not stated in the notice of appeal, and the second to the effect that the grounds of appeal were too broad.

The respondent herein countered these objections by applying to amend his notice of appeal so as to incorporate the relief sought. The Labour Court reasoned that labour disputes should not be decided on technicalities and that it was authorised to condone non-compliance with the Labour Court Rules, 2006 (SI 59 of 2006) (“the Rules”). Since no prejudice was alleged or suffered by the appellant, the court condoned the respondent’s failure to comply with the Rules and granted the application to amend the notice of appeal. As regards the grounds of appeal, the court found that they were sufficiently clear and had been understood by the appellant. Consequently, the court dismissed both points in limine.

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