Ex-BP workers protest over High Court judgment delays


MORE than 230 former BP Zambia Plc employees have petitioned Chief Justice Irene Mambilima to help expedite the conclusion of the matter in which they had sued the company for non-payment of their full pensions.

The workers are incensed by the slow pace at which their case was being handled by High Court deputy registrar Charles Kafunda from the time it was referred back to the High Court for assessment after the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s judgement to have the affected former employees paid their full benefits.

This is in a case in which the employees dragged their former employer to court in 2002 after they were declared redundant between 1993 and 1999.

They claimed, among others things, K18, 215, 314,116.00 as accrued value of pension from their membership of the BP Zambia Pension Scheme, and damages or equitable compensation for negligence leading to loss of their pension benefits.

They also wanted an account of the sum of K720, 056, 600.43 paid out of the pension scheme fund to BP Zambia by Zambia State Insurance Corporation (ZSIC) on or about January 31, 1995, and interest, to which the High Court ruled in their favour.

However, BP Zambia was not satisfied with the decision of the High Court and appealed to the Supreme Court on grounds that the High Court erred both in law and fact when it held that the 236 retrenchees were entitled to the relief they were claiming.

The company argued that the employees, who were retrenched in 1993 and 1999, belonged to different pension schemes and could not all benefit from the company’s ZSIC scheme.

But in its judgment, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s ruling and further ordered that the former employees be given 25 percent up to the date of payment of the money and referred the case back to the High Court for assessment in October 2014.

Hearing ended in February this year and submissions from both sides closed on 9th June, 2015 and ruling was supposed to be passed within 90 days, but to date that has not happened – a move which prompted the 235 workers to seek Chief Justice Mambilima’s intervetion into the matter.

In a petition dated 5th November 2015 and signed by 46 members, the former employees want Mr Kafunda to recuse himself if he felt he had challenges in coming up with the ruling.

“Your ladyship, six months have passed and we have not heard anything from Mr Kafunda. Our lawyers have sent reminders but we have not received any responses.

‘‘If at all Mr. Kafunda has challenges preventing him from making a ruling in this matter, we beg that he recuses himself from our case.

“The matter has a certificate of urgency issued in 2011 and we fail to understand why the deputy registrar is not respecting this direction which was issued by the Supreme Court,” read the petition in part.

The petitioners accused Mr. Kafunda of being ‘‘soft’’ with Saturnia Regna Pension Trust Fund and BP (now Puma).

“The accusations have been extended to our lead plaintiff. People are saying that he has also been bribed because he has been stopping us from protesting.

‘‘People are wondering how the entire Zambian judicial system can allow a deputy registrar to subvert the ruling of the Supreme Court.

‘‘Where shall we run to as Zambians if the judiciary cannot protect our rights even in a situation where we have followed the law and proved our claim before the highest court in our land?” the petition read.