Appeals court throws out UNZA retirees demand
By GRACE CHAILE LESOETSA
THE Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court’s decision that the more than 150 UNZA retirees are not entitled to payment of interest on their terminal benefits.
The Court accordingly dismissed the retirees’ appeal against a ruling of the High Court delivered by Judge Charles Chanda on May 16, 2019, which dismissed the retirees’ claim against the Council of the University of Zambia, for payment of interest on their benefits.
In the matter, Mr John Mumba and 150 other retirees retired from employment at UNZA on different dates between 2000 and 2007.
The 151 in their statement of claim stated that their relation with the employer was governed by a collective agreement which provided that a retired employee who had not been paid their retirement gratuity in full within three months, would continue to receive monthly salary until the retirement the gratuity is paid in full
When the employer could not pay within three months, the appellants were retained on the payroll. But Mr Mumba and others claimed that the employer had a contractual obligation to pay their terminal benefits within three months of their retirement but delayed to do so and as a result, their benefits had lost value
But UNZA represented by its lawyer Towela Nkhoma argued that the retention of the retirees on the payroll pending payment of terminal benefits was intended to cushion against financial hardships and the salaries which the appellants had been receiving covered the devaluation of the currency.
Ms Nkhoma contended that paying the retirees interest on the terminal benefits would amount to unjust enrichment.
And the High Court in its ruling dismissed the claim of interest on grounds that payment of interest to the appellants would amount to double payment and unjust enrichment.
The Court of Appeal judges Mubanga Kondolo, Flavia Chishimba and Petronella Ngulube in their judgment did not find merit in the argument that the retirees were entitled to interest because their employer delayed to pay them terminal benefits.
“First of all, though the appellants ought to have been paid within three months, they continued to receive their salaries precisely because the respondents delayed to pay them retirement benefits. We accordingly, hold that the appellants were not kept out of their money and therefore, there was no justification for the lower court to award interest to the appellants,”
“We hereby dismiss this appeal for lack of merit. We accordingly, uphold the ruling of the lower court. We make no order as to costs,” read the judgment.