Former clerk of Malawi Parliament Matilda Katopola was constructively dismissed and the court has ordered government to pay her terminal benefits.
Katopola sued government at the Industrial Relations Court (IRC) for constructive dismissal in 2012 and was claiming over K500 million (about $1.3m) in benefits.
Government, however, denied that it dismissed Katopola because she continued to receive her salary and benefits such as fees for her child and use of official vehicle.
“From the totality of the evidence, we find that the applicant [Katopola] was constructively dismissed and unfairly dismissed. We award the applicant severance pay, terminal benefits and other benefits to be assessed on a date to be fixed,” ruled deputy IRC chairperson Chimwemwe Kamowa.
Court documents show that on May 5 2012, Katopola received an SMS (short message service) from the then chief secretary to government Bright Msaka, informing her to meet him on May 7 2014.
At the meeting, Katopola was told that then president Joyce Banda was not ready to work with her.
Several proposals were made to her: that she be re-deployed to work either as law commissioner, director of public prosecution (DPP) or ambassador.
No reasons were given for her supposed removal.
The proposals were accompanied by a threat that in the event she insisted on remaining clerk of Parliament, she should be ready to face hostilities from staff and politicians, the documents show.
Katopola rejected all the proposals and preferred termination of her employment in accordance with existing conditions of service at the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).
The documents also show that on May 19 2012, former speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda called Katopola to his office where she was told that then vice-president Khumbo Kachali and Msaka had directed him to remove her from office. He also could not give reasons for her removal.
Chimunthu Banda then called for the PSC to endorse the decision in compliance with Section 17 of Parliamentary Service Act.
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.
The magistrate also noted that the former clerk of Parliament could only have been removed or suspended by the President, upon recommendation by the PSC for disability, bankruptcy, neglect of duty or misconduct.
The court is yet to assess how much Katopola will be paid, according to her lawyer James Masumbu of Tembenu, Masumbu & Co.
Katopola was also fighting a case of abuse of office in connection with the awarding of a contract worth K87 000 ($228) to Monik Trends, a company she owned.
Government has since dropped the case and former DPP Bruno Kalemba did not give reasons for the move.