Ex-Gratia “Mwabombeni” or Gratuity

Others call it ex-gratia, others call it gratuity, yet others, call it iya “mwabombeni” or mwagwila nchinto. Whatever language used, the money employers decide to give/share with employees as they part company has raised a lot of questions and the amounts, percentages and calculations have depended on so many factors which may be advanced and justified by the type and capacity of Employers. Recently, the Zimbabwean Supreme Court ruled that the issue of GRATUITY is never covered by their law and this inevitably has created some negative ripple effect in many organisations and Institutions all sizes across the Nation. This was as a result of two local employees having sued their former employers for allegedly having been UNDERPAID their well deserved Gratuity or ex-gratia. The resultant effect has been disastrous to say the least. Employers have now taken advantage of such a ruling. All they are doing now and can do is to let employees work up to Friday afternoon or evening, when they are about to knock off, they are handed letters of separation/dismissal and told to pack their personal belongings and stay away from the offices. Staff are assured that they would be paid their leave days and 1,2,or 3 months termination notice. That”s it, NO gratuity, no ex-gratia, no relocation allowance etc. About 90,000 will be impacted and the matter is almost turning POLITICAL unless the Republican President one Robert Gabriel Mugabe intervenes and comes to the employees rescue.
This is not far fetched and it can happen anywhere else including Zambia and indeed any Country. It can happen to anyone, anywhere. In fact it happens in Zambia and several other Countries. It happened within several of the Financial Institutions, the Insurers Companies, the Revenue Authorities, the Mines, the Parastatals, NGOs and the Private Sector.

Admitted I’m neither a Lawyer nor an HR practitioner. The issue of gratuity has been controversial in Zambia. I know Four big Financial Institutions which have been dragged to the courts of law for alleged “divide-and-rule”” type of administering the “Voluntary separation packages” and gratuity whereby some Unionised employees have been paid 3 to 4 months pay for each year served whilst Managers have been paid 2, or 2.5/3 months pay for each year served. Interesting enough, HR staff administer/and advise both Employees and Employers alike. Ex-staff are represented by Lawyers and Employers are represented by other crop of Lawyers as well. Initially both sides claim to have the right citations of the Law as the either side are paid. The case is dragged to Court before another Lawyer to interpret the same Law drafted by the Lawyers and passed in Parliament and assented to by the President who in case of (H.E. Levy Mwanawasa and Edgar Lungu) were/are equally Senior Lawyers and State Counsels for that matter.What the NATION would expect from Human Resources Practitioners/GURUS and Lawyers advising on HR matters is a clear interpretation of the Labour Law which talks of “Minimum 2 months pay for each year served”. I believe most of you have come across this INFAMOUS clause somewhere, somehow. When does it apply and to WHOM does it apply? Please guide. The expectation by lesser mortals from ALL HR GURUs and Labour Laws Learned people is create a forum to clearly debate, discuss, agree and share the position so that workers, employees and Managers alike including employers and Labour Officers are all and operate on the same page thereby moderately regulating reliance and great expectations from either side. My loud thoughts. Just to anticipate and avoid the “ZIMBABWEAN” Landmark ruling spilling-over across the mighty Zambezi River and Victoria falls into Zambia. We can also further abate the temptation for ALL Zambians to vie for Political Positions and fight to become Members of Parliament as Zambian MPs are allegedly paid handsomely and good “gratuity” pecks at the end of serving their five year Parliamentary term/seats. 2016 is around the corner. Before we all rush into Politics. Stay well and be blessed.

Kunda Kalaba

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