BULAWAYO – A former programme officer with the Girl Child Network (GCN) has
won a labour dispute against the director and founder of the organisation,
Betty Makoni for unfair labour practices and dismissal.

Ropafadzo Mapimhidze took the award-winning single issue lobby organisation
to court when her employer locked her out of her workplace and arbitrarily
terminated her employment contract for questioning some of the director’s
actions.

Labour court arbitrator J T Mawire of Eastlea suburb, Harare ruled in
Mapimhidze’s favour against GCN, represented by Nyikadzino, Koworera and
Partners for failing to honour its obligations in terms of the employment
contract; failing to pay salaries and benefits as stipulated in  the
contract and for substantial variations on the contract.

Mapimhidze, a former journalist, was employed by the Girl Child Network as a
programme officer in charge of five programs.

From January 2009 a number of changes were made to her contract while her
programs under her charge were reduced from five to one. She also had her
salary varied on several occasions from $1 200 to $860 resulting in a
cumulative shortfall of $3 400 over two years.

GCN lawyers had argued that Mapimhidze had absented herself from duty and
their client felt it had to terminate her contract when it expired.

But in his ruling, the arbitrator noted that GNC had failed to provide her
with the tools of trade and had made it impossible for her to carry out her
duties.

He also dismissed GNC’s assertion that the contract was not permanent as the
organisation argued, attributing this to a mistake in drafting the contract.

Mawire ruled that Mapimhidze be reinstated without loss of salary including
arrear salaries from the date of unlawful dismissal. If GCN can no longer
reinstate her, it must negotiate the amount of terminal benefits with the
claimant in lieu of reinstatement.

The Girl Child Network has been facing serious organizational and management
problems since its founder fled Zimbabwe to Botswana en route to Europe
allegedly “fearing for her life” at the height of political disturbances
after the 2008 general elections, leaving behind a disgruntled workforce.

The ruling against GCN appears to be an icebreaker to a possible series of
lawsuits from employees as the organisation battles to survive.

Some of the workers have threatened to take the organisation to court and
expose Makoni’s alleged fraudulent financial misdeeds that have left them
unpaid for months while Makoni was said to be still globe-trotting.

Employees talk of abuse of donor funds, the organisation’s assets including
vehicles, and allege that Makoni inflated figures to donors in project
proposals for her own benefit at the expense of beneficiaries and
misrepresented the success of GCN programs countrywide.

Last year, Makoni won the Cable News Network (CNN) award for courage.

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