Labour disputes pop up regularly in Zambia, but in the recent past some of them are attracting attention because of the involvement of fraudsters posing as labour officers from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
The consultants, who are supposed to advise citizens about labour-related matters, are also faking as labour officers and charging clients exorbitant amounts of money for the service.
A Lusaka-based businesswoman told MakanDay Centre for Investigative Journalism how she was almost swindled by fraudulent labour officers when she had a dispute with one of her employees.
The employee reported her to one of the people who was posing as a labour officer.
She said Charles Musonda, who claimed to be an officer from the ministry of labour contacted her to arrange for a meeting to resolve the matter.
“I told him (Musonda) I would come to his office, but he advised me to meet him at premium house because he was in a hurry,” she said.
She also explained that the man used threats to compel her to pay him as mediator to help resolve the matter.
“He told me that what I had done was an offence which would attract payment of up to K87,000 for damages if the matter is taken to court,” she said.
She was asked to pay K500 which would be transferred to the ministry of labour.
“I told him I could not pay K500 when I needed to settle the K1,000, balance which I owed my employee.
Makanday journalist who posed as someone who needed help contacted Musonda over a labour-related dispute with the employer.
Musonda introduced himself as an officer at the Ministry of Labour, who was on the Copperbelt to settle a labour dispute in court. He said the ministry does not charge for services, but the K230 which should be paid is for arranging the meeting with the employer.
“We use the K230 to document the programme when we start calling your employer,” he said.
But Labour Commissioner Given Muntengwa, said Musonda has never been appointed as a labour officer at the ministry.
MakanDay has also found out that fraudulent labour consultants are always milling around the labour office in Lusaka to trick people who go to report labour-related disputes.
On 09August2022, two youths, aged 21 were detained by labour officers for posing as one ofthem at the labour office. The pair told MakanDay that they were engaging insuch vices because of lack of employment.
Naomi Mandale revealed that she was part a wider network of young people who work for Willitone Mwale, who operates from FINDECO House in Lusaka.
“My job is to come to the BOMA (labour office) to convince people that they would get better services from us,” she said. “Each customer pays K500 consultation fee.”
But Mwale denied collecting money from clients for the “labour services” they provide, but said the payment is usually an appreciation of gratitude.
“My company does not get 30 percent of the money the employer gives the employee after a dispute is resolved… The only money we charge is consultation fee, which is K500 or less,” he said.
Mwale said his company also facilitates court appearances if the dispute is not settled, which the Ministry does not do.
A Lusaka resident who asked for anonymity said it was sad that the labour consultants were also masquerading as labour officers. He said some of them have even been inspecting companies.
Commissioner Muntengwa clarified that only certified labour inspectors can inspect a company.
He said, according to the Employment Code Act, a person commits an office if he impersonates or falsely represents oneself to be a labour inspector.
“Section 125 (4) a person convicted of an offence under subsection (3) is liable, to a fine not exceeding two hundred thousand penalty units (K60, 000.00) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both,” he added.