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$500,000 sexual harassment suit hits snag

by Staff reporter
03 Aug 2021 at 07:18hrs | Views
A HARARE woman's bid to obtain a $500 000 compensation through a default judgment against former Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) chief executive officer Mr Farai Bwatikona Zizhou and the organisation hit a snag after the High Court struck the matter off the roll for non-compliance with court rules.

Ms Rita Margue Mbatha now has to go back to the drawing board to rectify the defects and make a fresh application. Where a matter has been struck off the roll for failure by a party to abide by the rules of the court, the party will have 30 days within which to rectify the defect, failing which the matter will be deemed to have been abandoned.

Ms Mbatha, who was unceremoniously dismissed from employment after refusing to succumb to Mr Zizhou's sexual advances, won her case in the Supreme Court on appeal in 2019 after she sued the former and CZI.

The CZI was given a 30-day ultimatum to pay more US$40 800 compensation plus costs to Ms Mbatha.

In the present case, Ms Mbatha had filed an additional $500,000 lawsuit against CZI and Mr Zizhou, saying the latter's actions severely impacted on her marriage and her personal health, but both the defendants failed to defend the claim, resulting in Ms Mbatha approaching the court seeking a default judgment. When the matter was brought to court in June this year, Justice Tawanda Chitapi deferred the ruling because Ms Mbatha, a self-actor, had referred to several Supreme Court and High Court judgments, including the arbitral award.

It became necessary for the judge to check on the records alluded to and to authenticate the information supplied by Ms Mbatha. Having interrogated Mbatha's heads of argument after authenticating the paper trail of the case, which had a long chequered history.

The judge also had to do further research on the area of delictual damages for sexual harassment since the law appeared to be largely uncharted with a dearth of diced case law. However, for all the pickles Justice Chitapi took, it turned out that he could not grant Ms Mbatha's application for procedural shortcomings.

Ms Mbatha's application for default judgment was predicated on the Supreme Court ruling, which was in her favour, yet she had instituted fresh proceedings against Mr Zizhou and CZI.

"The correct grounds for applying for a default judgment should have derived from the defendant's failure to file their pleas contrary to what the Supreme Court had ordered," said Justice Chitapi.

"It is not the default in entering appearance to defend that entitles the plaintiff to seek judgment. That being the case the application is not in order."

In her claim, Ms Mbatha, is seeking a default judgment against Mr Zizhou and CZI for payment of $500 000 as damages for "shock, non-patrimonial damages, post traumatic disorder, pain and suffering", saying she endured sexual harassment by her former boss, who later fired her from employment in June 2013, over a petty offence.

Source - the herald

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