Suspended Gweru City Council town clerk Ms Elizabeth Gwatipedza has been fired after being found guilty of two counts of willful disobedience of a lawful order and gross inefficiency by a disciplinary committee.
Ms Gwatipedza was suspended on October 14 last year.
Following her suspension, the city of Gweru appointed Mr Melusi Moyo of Dube-Banda, Nzarayapera legal practitioners to preside over her disciplinary hearing which took over eight months to be completed.
Mr Moyo’s committee recommended the dismissal of Ms Gwatipedza.
It also recommended that council notify Ms Gwatipedza of her dismissal from council employment and that council notifies the Local Government Board about the dismissal.
She stood accused of refusing to follow orders from the mayor Councillor Josiah Makombe among other charges.
Ms Gwatipedza confirmed that she had been fired. “It’s true that I have been fired but will comment later,” she said.
After the hearing, Mr Moyo released the guilty verdict with recommendations to fire Ms Gwatipedza which were adopted by council last Friday.
Parties filed written submissions in mitigation and aggravation to enable me to consider the appropriate penalty following conviction of the town clerk on 18 November 2020 on the charge of willful disobedience to a lawful order and of gross inefficiency in the performance of her duties.
Gweru City council takes a serious view of the offences. It has thus prayed for dismissal of the town clerk. The town clerk on the other hand prays for lenience and educational sentence.
“Willful disobedience to a lawful order justifying dismissal of an employee must be such disobedience as to be likely to undermine the relationship between the employer and the employee, going to the root of the contract employment. The test whether the employee’s willful disobedience is a breach going to the root of the contract is an objective one,” reads the judgement.
The judgment notes that during the hearing Ms Gwatipedza argued that there is no specific provision in the Urban Councils Act which obliges her to take orders from the mayor and as a matter of law and practice, she acts through council resolutions and as a lay person, she didn’t believe she had to comply with the mayor’s instruction but she nevertheless complied.
She further argued that in the context of contracts of employment for heads of departments, there was no evidence led as to why such contracts were being requested.
“I have already found that all the elements of this charge were met and the question that arises is whether the disobedience is such that it is likely to undermine the employment relationship between the parties. In other words, is it serious to such an extent that it goes to the root of the contract?
“The factors that should be weighed against the mitigating factors submitted by Gwatipedza include the fact that the contracts of employment had been requested by the mayor who heads a council composed of new councillors. These councillors were not part of Gweru City Council when she was employed and they were thus entitled to know her conditions of service,” reads the judgment.
With regards to the charge of gross inefficiency, the judgment noted that evidence showed that the heads of departments were incompetent in some cases and it emerged that Ms Gwatipedza did not play her part to the level expected under Section 136 of the Urban Councils Act.
The judgment noted that the town clerk’s duties include supervising and controlling the activities of council employees, managing the operations and property of council and proper administration of council, among others.
“What is also concerning is that the gross inefficiency manifests itself on several occasions and the first case in point is on failure to take steps to comply with the audit cycle,” reads the judgment.
Mr Moyo recommended to council that findings of the disciplinary authority in their entirety without any amendments and dismissal of Gwatipedza from the employment of City of Gweru be adopted by Council with immediate effect.
He also recommended that council notifies Ms Gwatipedza of her dismissal from council employment and that council notifies the Local Government Board about her dismissal also.