Katopola to be paid millions, court rules

The court has ordered Malawi government to pay millions to former clerk of Malawi Parliament Matilda Katopola who was constructively dismissed by previous administration.

Parliamentary Service Commission  (PSC) removed Katopola from office arguing that the Joyce Banda government was not ready to work with her, a moved she challenged by filing on July 26 2012 at the Lilongwe Industrial Relations Court as having been constructively dismissed and that the conduct of the PSC amounted to unfair labour practices.

She claimed up to K900 million in benefits calculated up to 2030 when she will have retired.

Katopola (left) coming out of court : To smile all the way to the bank
Katopola (left) coming out of court : To smile all the way to the bank

The court is yet to assess how much Katopola will be paid.

“From the totality of the evidence, we find that the applicant [Katopola] was constructively dismissed and unfairly dismissed,” ruled deputy IRC chairperson Chimwemwe Kamowa.

Kamowa said the court awarded Katopola “ severance pay, terminal benefits and other benefits to be assessed on a date to be fixed.”

Part of  Katopola submissions tendered in court reads: “It was the fact that it was the President  [Joyce Banda] who directed my dismissal in the first place when former Chief Secretary Mr. Bright Msaka conveyed the message to me on 7th May 2012. And this was further endorsed by the Speaker and his Commission on the ground that this government did not want to work with me. It was a political decision.

“And that the Commission supported the executive decision by endorsing my removal without reason as provided for in the Parliamentary Service Act. The arrest was meant to block me from getting my benefits which the Speaker had already directed the financial controller of the Parliamentary Service Commission to compute officially.”

The submission further reads in part: “That the purported response by the President inviting me back to work was only a smokescreen and a rap to eventually formalize removal. Peoples Party officials had threatened me soon after the president took over office and this was evidenced in Mr Msaka’s warning that if I refused to leave Parliament I would face hostilities which I did eventually.”

Katopola says the letter of interdiction by the Speaker in May 2013 a year after removal from office was a very sad development not expected of the Commission when they aided her removal by the executive arm of government unlawfully.

The former CoP testified that she was further surprised to receive a letter of interdiction from the PSC due to “abscondment and neglect of duty”, yet it was the same office which had sent her home on compulsory leave.

“You don’t interdict someone who has already been dismissed. I faced hostilities from the word go from Parliament staff and MPs [members of Parliament]. So, I thought this time it would be safer for me to stay home. It was in bad faith that someone could force me to go back to Parliament without details of why I was removed in the first place,” Katopola contended.

“Todate they have never justified why they removed me without reasons,” reads the submission.

The IRC deputy chairperson observed that Section 57 of the Employment Act, as read with Sections 31 and 43(b) of the Constitution, requires that employment can only be terminated for good reasons and an employee must be heard before termination of contract which was not the case with Katopola.

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