The embattled Murang’a Water and Sanitation Company (Muwasco) chairman Peter Munga has been dealt a major blow after the labour court has struck out his case in which he had challenged his replacement at the water firm.
The tycoon had filed a case challenging Governor Mwangi Wa Iria’s decision to replace him at the board with Prof Joseph Kimura through a gazette notice.
He had argued that the county boss arbitrarily ended his tenure, and irregularly, unlawfully and unconstitutionally appointed Prof Kimura.
Following his application Justice Byram Ongaya temporally revoked Mr Wa Iria’s appointment and stopped the implementation of the gazette notice until Mr Munga’s case was heard and determined.
But on Thursday, Justice Nzioki Wa Makau of the Employment and Labour Relations Court struck out the petition after the governor successfully filed an application urging the court to dismiss the matter on account that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter.
Through his lawyer Ng’ang’a Mbugua, Mr Wa Iria stated that the matter before labour court “is not an employment and labour matter, nor a company law issue nor a Water Act issue but a constitutional decree which must be carried out however painful and unpalatable it is to Mr Munga”.
Mr Wa Iria added that the matter is before the Murang’a High Court and thus the decision to litigate the matter at the labour court by the petitioner was an abuse of a court process and risks embarrassing both the High Court and the labour court.
“The application is therefore hopeless, unmeritorious, an abuse of court process and should be dismissed with costs,” Mr Wa Iria’s affidavit read.
GO TO HIGH COURT
While delivering the ruling, Justice Makau noted that Mr Munga had not sought relief as an employee of Muwasco and that his petition would be best heard at the High Court.
The judge took note of the fact that there was a matter pending in the High Court in Murang’a, another reason for him to strike out Mr Munga’s petition.
“It was pointed out that there is an action pending before the High Court in Murang’a. In keeping with precedent, I will down my tools as I hold the opinion that I have no jurisdiction to deal with the manner on the mode of appointment and removal from office of directors in a limited liability company as those matters are the province of the High Court,” he said.
While replacing Mr Munga, Mr Wa Iria said he was informed by two High Court rulings which had been made after the water companies went to court to challenge the dissolution of the companies’ boards.
He said he issued a Gazette Notice No 8391 following the ruling which stated that water is a devolved function under the county government, a ruling that objected Muwasco and Mr Munga’s application to bar the governor from interfering with the running of the water firm.
On April 30, 2017 the Murang’a High Court ruled that “…Needless to say, the county government’s ability to realise its constitutional function of providing water and sanitation services may be gradual and incremental. But, again, needless to say, the applicants must in equal measure give way gradually to the county government in this regard as they move towards eventually winding up their business.”
After the ruling, Muwasco sought for its interpretation and on December 7, 2017 the court ruled that “…After promulgation of the new constitution, the ex parte applicant would have a limited time to continue doing so independently, because the provision of water and sanitation services was now a devolved function of the county government of Murang’a, and that they would probably continue to provide services only until such a time as the county government was ready to take on that function.”
Governor Wa Iria said the county had been ready to take up its mandate to provide water for eight years but “had been frustrated by the petitioner and Muwasco who were keen to retain their privileged and profitable operations at the expense of the people of Murang’a”.
He added that in December 2017, the Water Services Regulatory Board directed Muwasco to amend its memorandum and articles to have the county government as the main shareholder of the water firm and that persons 60 years old should cease their membership, a directive they ignored.
Mr Munga is 76 years old and has been the chairman of Muwasco since its inception.