ECONET Wireless has lost a High Court case in which it was contesting demands by a communications industry employment council to register and pay subscriptions to the council.
The High Court ruled (under case number HC 2760) that Econet had approached the court with dirty hands as it should have first complied with the law and then challenged legality of the institution and processes requiring the company to register and pay dues to the council.
The telecoms firm was ordered to register with the council, pay the required subscriptions and pay the respondents (Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Registrar of Labour and NEC) costs on attorney-client scale.
The country’s largest mobile network operator was disputing the requirement that it registers and pays subscription to the NEC arguing that the provisions for such demands had either been repealed or did not exist.
Econet claimed sections 65 and 67 of the Labour Act in terms of which the National Employment Council for the communications and allied industries was registered and varied its scope had been repealed in 2002.
“The applicant noted that the sections referred to in the letter were repealed in 2002 and that the second respondent could not have acted in terms of the sections.”
But the NEC wrote to Econet advising that it was lawfully registered, that its scope had been procedurally and legally varied and attached the relevant certificate in terms of which this had been done.
This registration and variation of its scope followed unbundling of the Postal and Telecommunications Company into separate entities, which also resulted in inclusion of other companies in communications into the NEC.
The council advised that its name had consequently been changed and registered in terms section 59 of the Labour Act, but reflected that this was done in May 2007.
It also reflected that section 61 of the Act was the provision in terms of which its scope of coverage had been varied, but its certificate bore a stamp for October 2010. Econet, however, queried the mismatch in the dates.
As such, the NEC referred the letter from Econet, raising concerns about the dates and doubting the certificate of registration was genuine, to the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, which clarified the position.
Econet would still not agree that mismatches in the dates on which the variation of the NEC’s scope and registration as the employment council for the industry had been procedurally and legally carried out.
It formed the view that the ministry and NEC connived to create a cloak of legality requiring the mobile phone operator to register and pay dues to the NEC.
Once again it sought clarity on the correctness on the legal provisions on which it should register with the NEC, which the ministry had hitherto explained including errors on dates and sections supporting such demands.