Mbabane: There seems to be no end in sight to MTN Eswatini and its dismissed three managers.
The court battle is between the telecommunications firm and Thandi Kunene, Makhosandile Vilakati and David Ndlovu. The trio is fighting MTN for unfairly dismissing them from work in 2011.
According to the judgement delivered in 2016, the trio had applied for reinstatement or compensation in the alternative. The 1st (Thandi Kunene) and 3rd (David Ndlovu) Applicants were paid their statutory packages. Only the 1st Applicant is reportedly employed. The court argued that the applicants having been dismissed about five years ago, therefore it was not going to be practical to have them re-instated, hence the compensation.
However, in an exclusive interview with Independent News, the 2nd applicant, (Makhosandile Vilakati) revealed that they did accept the compensations because they had applied for reinstatements over the former. Vilakati said they felt like these compensations were meant by MTN to buy them out of the case.
Vilakati said up to date, they were still waiting for the high court to grant them the lease of appeal which will grant them a green light to take their matter to the Supreme Court. He said they believe that once their matter is heard at the Supreme Court they might get justice for their matter.
He cited that what encourages them to take the matter to the Supreme Court is that there were cases of other employees from other companies where they were dismissed but the Supreme Court granted them their wishes.
One typical case that Vilakati highlighted was that of an employee from Swaziland Building Society who was also unfairly dismissed but she was reinstated after nine (9) years. The name of the employee is known to this publication but for ethical reasons it will be withheld. (WHY ARENT YOU NAMING THE SAID EMPLOYEE?)
Vilakati said this matter got their attention because theirs was not different to this one but him and his colleagues were denied reinstatement based on the fact that they were dismissed about five years ago, therefore it would not be practical to have them re-instated, hence the compensation.
Vilakati said in this regard, they did not understand why were they not reinstated, hence they were still fighting for their jobs back.
He added that they had recently resolved to take the matter to the human rights department as this was basically undermining their rights as they had families to take care of. He said the more the matter drags, the more they were frustrated.
Vilakati stated that their application to be reinstated was supported by the affidavit that was written by the late CEO Ambrose Dlamini where he stated that that the industrial court had powers to reinstate the managers regardless of what situation prevails either in terms of the structure of the organization or even if an employee has been replaced.
The bone of contention for this matter was the restructuring process implemented by MTN and it resulted in the four employees being unable to be accommodated in the new positions. One of the employees accepted an exit package and left. The three did not accept the exit packages offered and they were thus terminated on the grounds of redundancy. The three employees then took the matter to court.
The 1st Applicant was employed as Procurement and Warehouse Manager. A new position was created called Supply Chain which now has an added responsibility of Fleet Management. New academic qualifications were set for the new position which the 1st Applicant did not have. She said she applied for the position of Buyer but was not successful. Respondent Witness 1 told the Court that the skills gap was too wide and they needed someone to fill the position immediately.
The 3rd Applicant was employed as Service Centre Manager. The new position is now called Customer Experience and Training. He applied for other positions but was unsuccessful. The evidence by the 3rd Applicant that the Respondent still operates Service Centres in Manzini and Mbabane was not disputed.
According to the judgement, 2nd Applicant (Makhosandile Vilakati) was headhunted from his previous employer, the Swaziland Electricity Company (SEC) to join the Respondent and he duly accepted the appointment.
In the present case the Respondent witnesses told the Court that there was a need to undertake the exercise because two main reasons, namely; to position the Respondent for competition and to align the Respondent with Tier 3 operations. As the result of the exercise several job categories were affected. These included jobs in which the Applicants were employed. Overall, there were job categories that were not affected at all.
There were job categories that were affected only in respect of the reporting lines. There were also job categories that became redundant and new positions created. The jobs that were held by the Applicants fell into the category of the jobs that were abolished and new positions with new qualifications were created. The Applicants could not meet the new job requirements hence they were retrenched.