HARARE – Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe and Police Commissioner General Godwin Matanga have escaped imprisonment for failing to pay over US$60,000 dues to a police officer who was irregularly fired from service back in 2010.
The two, together with director of the Salary Service Bureau, were found in contempt of court by High Court judge Priscilla Munangati-Manongwa, after they failed to comply with a 2010 court order to pay Anatos Mpofu who chose to leave after he was wrongly convicted.
Manongwa said she could have considered a custodial sentence for the trio but found it technically impossible because the three were cited in their official capacity.
“Whilst the applicant had sought the imprisonment of respondents, he cited their offices as opposed to individuals,” the judge said in her ruling.
“An order for committal is incompetent against an office.
“Only an individual can be committed to prison. In that regard, I find it proper to impose a fine. As the applicant is a self-actor, it can be understood that he missed this fact.
“In the result, it is ordered that the first, second and third respondents be and are hereby declared to be in contempt of court for failure to comply with the court order in HH 08/11.
“The first, second and third respondents are each sentenced to a fine of $100,000.”
The judge also slapped the trio with costs.
The judge also said respondents should pay US$53,596.46 into Mpofu’s bank account together with interest at the prescribed rate calculated from 29 September 2010 to date of final payment within 14 days of service of her order.
Mpofu wanted the three imprisoned for 90 days, the period of which was to be suspended on condition that they complied with the order within 14 days.
Court heard that in 2011, the High Court ordered the three to pay the applicant damages in lieu of reinstatement in the sum of US$58,131 being arrears salaries, bonuses, accommodation, leave days and medical services.
The director of the salary service bureau was ordered to pay Mpofu a lumpsum pension of US$6,101.57 and a monthly pension of US$97.00 until his death.
Mpofu was a police officer before he was summarily dismissed from the force following conviction in a criminal matter.
He then successfully appealed against the conviction and later sought reinstatement into the force.
Mpofu then instituted proceedings which resulted in the order above.
He told court that he never received the US$58,131.00 as directed by the court and he rendered proof of having received in his account a lump sum of US$4,534.54 which appeared on his bank statement as net salary deposit and same was paid on the 24 March 2012.
Matanga had argued that there was a subsequent compromise and or settlement between the parties where it was agreed that the applicant be reinstated and be considered as retiring at the age of 50 years in 2010.
He insisted that Mpofu was then paid all his dues.
Matanga also asserted that as per the agreement between the parties, the applicant was then placed on a pension and as in 2015, he was now earning a pension of US$255 well above the US$97 ordered by the court.
In response, Mpofu maintained that he never agreed to the proposal and negotiations fell through hence he relies on his court order which has not been honoured to this date.
The judge said whilst correspondence from Matanga was placed before the court purporting that Mpofu was paid his dues, the police boss had failed to substantiate that despite being given an opportunity to do so.
She said of note is the fact that in all this, the entity responsible for effecting payments on behalf of the government being the Salaries Services Bureau chose to remain quiet.
“Suffice that compliance has been outstanding for a very long period and the applicant’s complaint that justice delayed is justice denied has basis. I thus endeavoured to prepare this judgment within a day as to show that the justice delivery system is still functional and takes the litigants’ quest for justice seriously.”