High Court Removes Harare Woman’s US$500 000 Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

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By Mary Taruvinga

A HIGH Court application by a Harare woman, Rita Marque-Mbatha, who is demanding US$500 000 from her former boss and employer for sexual harassment, has been struck off the roll after Justice Tawanda Chitapi ruled her matter was invalid.

Marque-Mbatha, who is now the director of Women’s Comfort Corner Foundation (WCCF), was sexually harassed by her former boss, Farai Bwatikona Zizhou, the ex-chief executive of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI).

She first filed the lawsuit at the Labour Court accusing Zizhou of terminating her employment after she turned down his sexual advances.

However, the Labour Court dismissed the application before she made an appeal at the High Court.

Before then, Marque-Mbatha had won an earlier lawsuit after the Supreme Court ruled Zizhou and the CZI to pay her US$41 000 over the same charges.

After the Supreme Court ruling, she made a fresh application demanding US$500 000 from Zizhou and CZI for sexual abuse, unfair dismissal, pain, suffering, and post-traumatic stress.

Marque-Mbatha told the High Court that Zizhou’s actions had negatively impacted her marriage and personal health.

“Plaintiff (Marque-Mbatha) suffered severe psychological and psychiatric trauma which resulted in her experiencing some chronic emotional problem. Further, the sexual harassment tainted her marriage to the extent that her husband has separated with her in disbelief of what had happened to her.” reads part of her summons.

However, in delivering his ruling, Justice Chitapi noted the application was invalid as she had failed to properly file her papers with the court.

“In terms of the Supreme Court order, the need to enter an appearance to defend by defendants fell away. Therefore, the correct grounds for applying for default judgment should have derived from the defendants’ failure to file their pleas contrary to what the Supreme Court had ordered,” the judge said.

“It is not the default in entering appearance that entitles the plaintiff to seek judgment. That being the case, the plaintiff’s application is not in order. The following order must ensue; it is hereby ordered that the application is struck off the roll.”