By CHINTU MALAMBO
AFRICAN Life Financial Services Limited has lost an attempt to silence its former employees from demanding benefits after the Supreme Court ruled that the High Court must adjudicate the claims of the former employees.
African Life Financial Services are the administers of the Saturnia Regna Pension Trust Fund while their sister company Benefits Consulting Services Limited are the fund managers.
The Supreme Court however, in its judgement rendered by Supreme Court judges Evans Hamaundu, Mumba Malila and Royda Kaoma criticised African Life Financial Services Limited for employing various techniques to stop its former workers from proceeding with their claim.
“At the beginning of this judgement we expressed our concern at the keenness that animated the attempts through technicalities to silence the respondents from proceeding with their claim. We think real justice in this case resided not in those technicalities and rules but hearing the parties in full.
“It is for all the reasons that we have given that we believe the matter must proceed to trial. The appeal fails and we so hold,” the court ruled.
The background of the appeal is that 23 respondents (the claimants) were employed by Anglo American Corporation Limited and Zamanglo Industrial Corporation limited (Anglo) and were subsequently transferred to African Life Financial Services Limited.
They sought the intervention of the High Court to determine and order that they were entitle to accrued benefits transferred from their former employers, Anglo and paid to African Life Financial Services Limited.
They urged the court to determine that their period of service ran from the date of their engagement with Anglo to their exit from the employ of African Life Financial Services Limited.
The former employees further asked the court to order that they be paid K1, 282, 755. 45 being the benefits accrued from their employment with Anglo and transferred to African Life Financial Services Limited.
But African Life Financial Services Limited attempted to have the case of the former employees dismissed arguing that they were raising the same issues as they did in the an earlier case and the said case was conclusively determined by the Supreme Court.
The company wanted the court to rule that the matter was res Judicata (an issue that has been conclusively settled by judicial decision and therefore cannot be pursued further by the same parties) it also brought out two more issues; that five of the claimants were deceased and that 10 of the claimants exited the company more than six years prior to their lawsuit on 14 February 2014.
In response, the claimants argued that the two cases were different because in their earlier case, they were demanding for an order of court to declare them redundant so that they could be paid their redundancy benefits while in the present case, they were demanding an order to compel the company to pay them their accrued benefits.
The High Court ruled that the matter was not res judicata and it also ordered that the deceased people be substituted with their personal representatives so that the matter proceeds to trial.
African Life Financial Services Limited being dissatisfied with the holding of the High Court, appealed to the Supreme Court but the Supreme Court upheld the holding of the High Court.