Former Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) chief executive Farai Zizhou has been ordered to pay US$180 000 damages for sexually harassing his former personal assistant, Rita Marque Mbatha in a case that has dragged on for nearly two decades.
Since 2003, Mbatha has been pursuing the sexual harassment case against her former boss, which happened during her employment with CZI.
Mbatha worked for CZI from 2002 before she quit in 2003 alleging that Zizhou had made sexual advances at her on several occasions.
In his ruling last Friday, High Court judge Justice Martin Mafusire praised Mbatha for seeking justice against all odds.
Mbatha is now a human rights advocate.
“She has been to arbitration. She has been to the Supreme Court. She is back to this court. She strives for closure. Any lesser mortal would probably have given up. Plainly, Mbatha is no lesser mortal. Her tenacity and fighting spirit have moved mountains. She is still fighting. This judgment only settles her case. The other half still continues,” Justice Mafusire said.
“Taking all factors into account, it is considered that the proper level of damages for the sexual harassment perpetrated by the first defendant upon the plaintiff during the period of the plaintiff’s employment with the second defendant from September 2002 to June 2003 is US$180 000, or the equivalent thereof in local currency, convertible at the inter-market bank rate at the time of payment,” he said.
Justice Mafusire also ordered Zhizhou to pay the costs of the lawsuit.
In her testimony before the courts, Mbatha pointed out that sexual harassment of females employed at CZI was rampant, adding that Zizhou was the sole culprit.
In his judgment, Justice Mafusire said Mbatha’s dismissal in July 2003 after she reported Zizhou for sexual harassment was unfair.
“He took revenge. The charges were inappropriate, touching, unwelcome offensive jokes, invitation by innuendo to an inappropriate sexual relationship, receiving offensive telephone messages, receiving pornography on the computer, an attempt to kiss by force, causing an injury on the thigh in the process of resisting,” Mafusire said.
Evidence given before the courts also showed that Zizhou pestered Mbatha to give in to his sexual demands despite the fact that they were both married.
Some of Zizhou’s offensive emails to Mbatha were exhibited before the courts.
“You have just completed your probation and according to CZ1 rules, you are not eligible for the general increase for permanent staff, but the small adjustment that is in your appointment letter I am bending the rule — for you, please hold on tight to me — if we crash, we crash together. I am awarding you the same percentage increase as everybody else. I am defending it against the treasurer this morning. Doing so will cost CZI an extra $3 million in employment and other costs for the three people involved,” Zizhou said in one of the emails to Mbatha.
“….You are the love of my life. I will do anything for you,” read one of the emails.
In March 2014, Mbatha sought arbitration and the tribunal found that she was unfairly dismissed and sexually harassed.
Psychiatric reports obtained from Mbatha’s doctors noted that she was traumatised by the experience.
Justice Mafusire ruled that as a result of the sexual harassment, Mbatha suffered severe post-traumatic stress disorder and had to undergo counselling.
“She suffered physical and emotional pain which scarcely suppressed anger. During the counselling sessions, she would lose track of her answers midway through and would ask that questions be repeated,” the judgment read.
The court also heard that after she was fired, she had to sell immovable property to cater for medical bills and the general upkeep of her family.
“The plaintiff’s case seems such a textbook case. Manifestly, no amount of money seems adequate to compensate for her loss,” Justice Mafusire said, adding that the law should not pay lip service and must mete out stiff penalties to deter would-be offenders. -Newsday