MASERU –– The Labour Appeal Court on Monday ordered Fahhida Cash & Carry to pay M405 000 to a group of former workers who were unfairly dismissed four years ago.
The court said Fahhida Cash & Carry should pay the 31 dismissed workers within 30 days.
Fahhida Cash & Carry had taken its case to the Labour Appeal Court after the lower Labour Court ruled that its decision to fire the workers was procedurally unfair.
The lower court had ordered Fahhida to either reinstate or compensate the workers.
Thirty workers wanted Fahhida to pay them M13 200 each while one demanded M15 000 in compensation.
Fahhida rushed to the Labour Appeal Court seeking a review of the decision.
A lawyer representing Fahhida, Ntjelo Hlalele, stunned the court when he said the company had closed and was not in a position to compensate the workers.
Hlalele told the Labour Appeal Court that Fahhida’s managing director, Uinis Abdullah, had volunteered to pay a monthly salary of M500 each to the dismissed workers for a period of one year.
The proposal would have seen the company paying M185 000 to all the dismissed workers.
In its judgment delivered on Monday, the Labour Appeal Court ordered Fahhida to pay the workers M405 000 within 30 days.
Justice Semapo Peete, who delivered the judgment on behalf of Judge Kananelo Mosito, said there was no evidence that Fahhida was bankrupt and could not afford to pay the workers.
“There is no justification as to why this court cannot order Fahhida Cash & Carry to pay the said amount to all workers it dismissed unfairly.
“One does not need an expert to realise that the settlement amount proposed by the appellant cannot wipe off the debt within 12 months,” Peete said.
There were fears that with Fahhida claiming that it was bankrupt it would be impossible to pay the workers.
However, the judgment said there was no evidence that Fahhida was broke and defunct.
“There are no papers on record to show that it closed down. We do not have any acceptable evidence that they closed down,” the judgment said.
Commenting on Abdullah’s offer to pay workers, Peete said the Labour Appeal Court had no jurisdiction over the matter as he had not approached the court formally.
“Employees are owed M405 000 and should be paid,” he said. “The decision of the Labour Court cannot be disturbed.”
Fahdida’s application was also dismissed with costs.
The ruling on Monday comes four years after the workers launched a court case to secure justice.
Six workers have since died.
Scores others were still jobless.
The judgment said it was wrong that the case had dragged for years without being resolved.
“This case has taken too long in the courts and things such as these make the public lose confidence in the administration of justice.”
It said delays in the administration of justice will scare away foreign investors.
“We should not allow cases to drag.”
One of the fired workers, Litaba Mohatle, said he was happy that he will finally get his payment from Fahhida.
“I will use the money to help my siblings who are attending school,” Mohatle said.
“They are dependent on me even though my wife and I are not working,” he said.
Mohatle said he will also use the funds to pay for his university studies.
He is currently studying for a business and information technology degree at Limkokwing University.
He said his wife was also currently studying business management at the Institute of Extra Mural Studies in Maseru.
Mohatle said the whole family was currently dependent on money they receive from the National Manpower Development Secretariat for their tuition fees.
The verdict was greeted with shouts of joy from the former workers who attended the court.
The workers raised their fists and stomped the ground in celebration.
They said even their colleagues who had died without seeing the judgment would now rest in peace.