Who would have thought that judges needed to be warned to watch their language!

Supreme Court, Zambia

Banda v Attorney General

Some months before their contracts came to an end, the contracts of the two appellants were terminated. The trial court found these terminations neither unfair nor wrongful and the appellants challenged that outcome in the supreme court.

Writing for a three-court bench of Zambia’s Supreme Court, Justice Jane Kabuka noted that the terms “wrongful”, “unlawful” and “unfair”, as applied to termination of employment, were “persistently” used as interchangeable, even though these terms did not mean the same thing.

Legal authors and judgments had made clear that in Zambia, “a dismissal is either wrongful or unfair” and that “unlawful” did not mean “unfair” in matters of labour law.

Courts had to get this distinction right and there was a “need for trail courts to avoid the careless and cavalier use of legal terms or expressions without regard to their proper meaning”, she said.