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Refund of half salary – Court explains

Filed under: Special Comments |
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By Dickson Jere

He was employed as Hall Attendant – a person looking after the Student Residences at UNZA. He then received a bribe from students in exchange for accommodation on campus. Having been “caught”, he was summarily dismissed for corruption and receiving bribes after a lengthy disciplinary process.

However, he was put on half salary during the suspension period while his case was being heard.

Having been dismissed, he sued in the High Court for his unpaid half salaries that were withheld by the university. He also demanded for his gratuity as well as damages for unlawful, wrongful and unfair dismissal as he was disciplined by wrong process.

The Judge, having heard the evidence, agreed with
UNZA that the dismissal was correct and that he does not deserve to be paid the half salaries that were withheld during suspension.

Disappointed with the High Court Judgment, he climbed the judicial system and appealed to the Court of Appeal. The three-member panel analyzed the case record and ruled thus;

“What that means is that for the Appellant to be entitled to that portion of his salary, he should convince the Court that his dismissal was indeed wrongful and unfair and therefore, he should not have been suspended in the first place,” the Judges noted.

“Where one is not found liable by the Disciplinary process, the suspension is lifted and the withheld portions of the salary are paid back,” the Judges further explained.

In this case, the dismissal was found to be valid and therefore the UNZA worker could not claim the half salary when he was on suspension even at the end of the disciplinary process.

“In the case of a failed challenge of the dismissal in a Court of law, as is the case with the Appellant, the withheld portions of the salary are not refundable,” the Court held.

The Court further explained that where the employee has been found innocent, what should be paid is damages or refund in rare circumstances if the Court order reinstatement.

“So half salary has nothing to do with the outcome of a challenge on an employee’s dismissal. It is a condition attached to the suspension only,” the three Judges concluded and threw away the appeal.

Case citation – Emmanuel Zgambo v University of Zambia (Appeal No 132/2022) and judgement delivered last week on the 25th April, 2023.

Note that this is not legal opinion but summary of case and commentary based on the evidence provided in this matter.

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