Government dodged a bullet after the Court of Appeal (CoA) overturned a High Court decision in which the State was ordered to pay Micus Chimbombi, former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, over P1.7 million for unlawful dismissal.
Justice Busang had ordered government to pay the veteran civil servant P1,710,090.20, a sum that represents his remuneration that would have been due to him for the balance of his fixed contract of employment after he was relieved of his duties just five months into his three-year contract in 2015.
He stated that they made him believe that the termination would be negotiated on terms that would be amicable, an influence that weakened his position. He said the mutual separation was prejudicial to Chimbombi, as he was made to lose his job, from which he gained nothing.
The government had also been ordered to pay the cost of the suit.
Chimbombi, who contested in the October 2019 general elections under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ticket, had cited the Attorney General, former permanent secretary to the President Carter Morupisi, and former president Ian Khama, as respondents in a court case that began in 2017.
The case followed the termination of his three-year contract, which was after just five months into it. In awarding the sum, the court considered his monthly salary of P55,164.20, which was made up of P39,403 as the basic salary, plus his 40% scarce skill allowance. His total earnings for 28 months would have totalled P1,544,597.60 while his 65 leave days gave him P165,492.61.
The State then appealed the judgement, an appeal that was upheld by a three-justice panel of the CoA last Friday.
The State refuted allegations that Chimbombi’s employment termination was procured through undue influence and therefore unlawful and that it was agreed that he would be paid his salary for the unexpired portion of his contract.
Justice Monametsi Gaongalelwe alongside Judge President Ian Kirby and Justice Mercy Garekwe all agreed that the State’s appeal is successful and set aside the decision of the High Court.
While setting aside the High Court’s decision, the CoA justices replaced it with an order dismissing Chimbombi’s application with costs.
Justice Monametsi found out that there was no undue influence as evidence provided for shows that Chimbombi entered into the separation agreement motivated by his hope that he will be paid for the remaining portion of his contract. The CoA justices also agreed that Chimbombi has failed to prove that there was an agreement in place that he would be paid for the balance of his contract.
“Similarly, the issue of undue influence does not assist him at all,” read the judgement in part.
It is said that Morupisi, acting on behalf of Khama, terminated the contract in mutual agreement with Chimbombi. Chimbombi had proposed that he be paid for the balance of his contract. However, government only paid him three months’ salary in lieu of notice, prompting Chimbombi to sue the government for breach of contract.
Chimbombi was appointed permanent secretary in 2008, on permanent and pensionable terms. In 2012, he was engaged on a three-year contract, which was later renewed in 2015. He was also amongst other UDC election candidates who petitioned the Independent Electoral Commission after losing in the 2019 elections.