‘Tormented’ Air Force serviceman demands discharge, sues defense minister

HARARE – An Air Force of Zimbabwe serviceman is suing defense minister Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri claiming “unfair labour practices” and seeking discharge from the military after more than two years of emotional torture by his employer.

Matthew Mushininga, a wing commander, also cited Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) boss Valerio Sibanda and Air Force Commander Elson Moyo in papers before the High Court alleging they ignored his internal request for retirement.Mushininga says that his woes started back in August 2018 when he was falsely accused of unlawfully entering a liquor bar for junior officers at Manyame airbase. It wasn’t clear if he is accused of helping himself to any libations.

The airman says he has not known peace since then, adding he’s been cut off the payroll and thrown out of military housing. And to make matters worse, Mushininga says the Air Force turned down his application for discharge without giving any reasons.

His efforts to reach out to Muchinguri, he says, proved futile as she allegedly ignored his letter and notice to sue, tendered in December last year.

As a result, the troubled soldier says the High Court should step in and grant him an order compelling Muchinguri and the Air Force to let him retire “with full benefits.”

After the bar entry accusations, an inquiry was instituted but he was never told of the outcome, Mushininga alleged, adding he was made to stay home for five months before being transferred to the Zimbabwe National Defense University.

While there, he was appointed director of business development but was quickly demoted and given the job in an acting capacity without “any explanation.”

Mushininga’s attorneys from M.E Motsi & Associates, say their client was not paid for the short-lived acting directorship assignment.

Then in 2019, the officer says he was involved in a road accident, prompting another inquiry whose findings remain unknown to him.

The Air Force allegedly repossessed his service vehicle and reassigned it to another officer despite that the army had deducted repair fees from his salary.

And in January last year, Mushininga was transferred to Zimbabwe Staff College as teaching staff, only to be thrown back in the commander’s pool – again without explanation.

He would soon be kicked out of his Manyame Airbase housing and barred from stepping his foot in any Air Force premises.

“Due to the above acts by the respondents, the applicant put in a request to retire to which there was no response genuinely believing that this would save the Air Force time and resources,” Mushininga says in his application.

“Applicant was instead illegally punished by being removed from the accommodation provided to him at Manyame Airbase without any explanation. On July 17 2020 he was physically manhandled and thrown out of Air Force and he remains unduly barred from any premises belonging to the Air Force of Zimbabwe.

“From the foregoing, it is clear that the applicant has been a victim of unfair labour practices and constructive dismissal. Accordingly, it is in the best interests of both applicant and respondents that he be retired from the Air Force of Zimbabwe with full benefits,” prayed his lawyers,” the airman said.

The matter is yet to be heard.

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