Supreme Court rules ex-worker cannot sue UN

HARARE - The Supreme Court has stopped the deduction of $623 000 from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)’s bank account to pay a former employee who obtained a court order compelling the agency to pay him because the UN has legal immunity in Zimbabwe that only it can waive.

The Harare-based employee, Michael Jenrich, had dragged the UN agency to the Labour Court over his outstanding benefits and won a court order that compelled his employer to pay him $623 400 owed to him in benefits.

Jenrich registered the award at the High Court in March 2015, forcing the then Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi to approach the Supreme Court in a desperate bid to save FAO’s account.

The appeal culminated in the ruling handed down yesterday, where FAO was said to have absolute immunity in Zimbabwe in terms of the Convention on Privileges and Immunities of Specialised Agencies of the United Nations signed in 1991, referred to as ‘‘the Convention’’. At least five Supreme Court judges, chief justice Luke Malaba, Paddington Garwe, Anne-Marie Gowora, Antonio Guvava and Susan Mavangira, dealt with the appeal.

“The judgment of the court a quo is set aside and substituted with the following: the application is granted with costs, it is hereby declared that the FAO enjoys absolute immunity from every form of legal process and execution in Zimbabwe, the garnish order issued by this court on 31 December 2014 be and is hereby declared invalid and set aside,” a judgment by the Supreme Court judges reads.

The judges further declared invalid and set aside writs of execution that had been issued against FAO’s property.

“The decision in the case of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) vs Sibanda and another 2004 (1) ZLR (Zimbabwe Law Report) 27 (SC), extending the principle of restrictive immunity applicable to sovereign States to international organisations, is hereby overruled for the reason that it is wrong at law.

“The ICRC case supra was wrongly decided to the extent that it held that the principle of restrictive immunity is applicable to international organisations. The decision is overruled. The judgment of the court a quo is wrong because it relied on the ICRC case supra,” the court ruled.

The court further said that FAO has its own internal mechanism for dealing with employment-related disputes and that the mechanism was created to enable the organisation to deal with disputes arising out of contracts.

“The dispute between FAO and the first respondent arising from the termination of employment should have been dealt with according to the mechanisms established by the organisation in terms of the Convention and its Constitution,” the Supreme Court declared.

Comments (1)

The only reason a Zim minister would appeal an order compelling an employer to pay his employee is if the minister knows kuti iye ndiye arikudya mari yeFAO. Otherwise why would he care? These judges are compromised and corrupt. Let the man have his money! Chenyu chii chamurikuda ipapa? Zim is f*kd up for real.

Moe Syszlack - 2 November 2018

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