Premier Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) yesterday fired suspended managing director Mr Henry Mandishona who was facing a slew of allegations related to misconduct. This is despite the fact that a labour officer at the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare had started hearing a case in which Mr Mandishona was challenging the decision to try him beyond the prescribed 30-day period.
PSMAS board chairperson Mr Jeremiah Bvirindi signed the letter after the medical insurer convened a hearing last week, in the absence of Mr Mandishona and his legal practitioner, who were waiting for a hearing before a labour officer set for tomorrow. A source at PSMAS said the letter of dismissal was dispatched to Mr Mandishona’s residence yesterday.
Mr Mandishona could not be reached for comment last night. Mr Bvirindi declined to comment saying he was attending a meeting. The decision to terminate Mr Mandishona’s contract followed a hearing that was done last week led by Harare lawyer, Mr James Mutizwa in the absence of Mr Mandishona and his legal practitioner.
Mr Mutizwa was roped in after another lawyer recused himself for professional reasons. The dismissal of Mr Mandishona comes on the backdrop of industrial action by medical doctors at PSMI clinics, who are demanding outstanding salaries that have not been paid for the past five months.
Last week, Mr Mandishona’s lawyer, Mr Innocent Chagonda wrote to PSMAS warning them that it was irregular for them to proceed with the hearing when the same case was before a labour officer. It was brought to PSMAS’ attention that the labour officer had advised them in their earlier meeting that they were free to raise any objections should they have any during tomorrow’s hearing.
Mr Mandishona was suspended on September 24 and faced an array of allegations that include unilaterally hiking his salary among other alleged mismanagement charges. A source at PSMAS said the decision to dismiss Mr Mandishona would set the tone for a bruising legal battle following his decision to refer the case to a labour officer.
“It appears the decision to dismiss him was meant to pre-empt the hearing before a labour officer whose November 27 2015 date was mutually agreed by both parties. PSMAS lawyers and Mandishona attended a conciliation meeting before a labour officer before the November 27 2015 was mutually agreed,” said the source.
“PSMAS is now expected to justify before the labour officer on why they proceeded to make a determination when the labour officer was now seized with the case. Obviously Mandishona’s lawyers would raise the dirty hands principle in the Friday meeting.”
Mr Mandishona has approached the ministry in terms of the Labour Act to have disciplinary proceedings against him stopped arguing that the PSMAS failed to complete the process within the 30-day period prescribed by the law. In an interview last week, Mr Chagonda said PSMAS lost jurisdiction on Mr Mandishona when it failed to conclude the case.
PSMAS, said Mr Chagonda, could no longer try Mr Mandishona outside the prescribed 30-day period. “In terms of section 101 (6) of the Labour Act Chapter 28:01 either party can refer a case to the Ministry of Public Service should 30 days lapse and this is what we have done. Our argument is PSMAS has lost jurisdiction over my client and this is what we want the Ministry to confirm,” he said.
Government has since made a directive to PSMAS to reinstate Mr Mandishona but the PSMAS board refused saying he should face the music. Another source said it was ironic that PSMAS board rejected a Government directive to reinstate Mr Mandishona yet the same board sought protection from the State in securing a law that shielded the medical aid society from facing litigation from creditors.
“Government promulgated Statutory 77 of 2015 to protect PSMAS from having its properties attached. Now when it is convenient to the PSMAS board, they seek assistance from Government when it is not, they defy it,” said another source.