Govt ordered to hire nurse who passed interviews but was not given offer letter


The High Court has ordered Malawi Government to provide an offer letter to a nurse who passed job interviews but her offer letter was not sent to her and she was told by the Ministry of Health that she had lost the employment opportunity.

The nurse, Isabel Tekwatekwa, attended interviews on 22nd April, 2020, for the post of Nursing Officer (Grade H-I). The interview was conducted from Nkhotakota Secondary School.

She never heard from either the Health Service Commission or from the Secretary for Health on the outcome of the interview but in June, 2021 her friends based at Kamuzu Central Hospital told her that her name was on the list of health workers who had been newly recruited and posted to that hospital.

A list of newly recruited health workers was pasted on a notice board at Kamuzu Central Hospital and a headcount of the newly-recruited nurses had been arranged.

Tekwatekwa met with Ms. Gulule from Ministry of Health who had gone to Kamuzu Central Hospital to conduct a headcount on behalf of the Health Service Commission and the Secretary for Health.

Gulule informed the nurse that an offer letter had been duly prepared but that the Health Service Commission and the Secretary for Health had omitted to ensure that it was delivered to Tekwatekwa.

“Ms. Gulule went ahead to advise Ms Tekwatekwa that as the offer lapsed after 14 days, there was no offer that Ms Tekwatekwa could accept. It was the further advice of Ms. Gulule that in the circumstances, Ms Tekwatekwa should wait for the next round of interviews that the Health Service Commission were scheduled to conduct in July, 2021,” the court heard.

In court, Tekwatekwa who was represented by lawyer Khumbo Soko for free, applied for a judicial review arguing that requiring her to undergo a fresh interview when she was already successful in the previous interviews would not be just and would be extremely prejudicial.

The nurse prayed for declaration that the Respondents’ (Health Commission and Secretary for Health) omission to send her a letter of appointment was unconstitutional in that it violated sections 4, 12, 13, 14, 15, 28, 29, 30, 31 and 43 of the Constitution;

She also prayed for declaration that the Respondents’ omission to send her a letter of appointment was illegal in that it contravened section 3(a) of the Public Service Act and Regulation 1:108 of the Malawi Public Service Regulations

She further sued for declaration that by taking the position that an offer of appointment in the public service that was never delivered to a successful candidate lapses after 14 days of its issuance, the Respondents misdirected themselves on the law and committed a grave error of law;

Tekwatekwa also asked the court to declare that the omission/decision of the Respondents is unreasonable, irrational and rather outrageous and astonishing in its defiance of logic that no public officer or functionary, properly exercising his or her mind and being directed by the law on the occasion controls the exercise of his or her functions, would arrive at it.

She then asked for consequential order directing the Respondents to issue a letter offreing the Applicant an appointment as a Nursing Officer (Grade H-1) within 14 days from the date of the Court order.

The court yesterday ruled in her favour on all grounds and ordered government to send Tekwatekwa a Letter of Conditional Appointment on Probation offering her a post as a Nursing Officer (Grade H) within 30 days.

Social commentator Onjezani Kenani has since urged recruiters in the Civil Service to take a lesson from the case and stop malpractices.

Kenani also thanked Counsel Khumbo Bonzoe Soko for standing up for the voiceless.

“The system had slammed the door into the face of Ms Tekwatekwa in the cruellest manner imaginable, and for no valid reason whatsoever. I am glad that the courts have compelled the relevant offices to do the right thing and offer Ms. Tekwatekwa a job,” said Kenani.

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