Written by Byron Mutingwende
BINDURA – Hundreds of miners illegally fired from work at one of the Mashonaland Central province’s mining giants Mwana Africa long before the enactment of the Labour Amendment Bill see no hope in the legislation to deliver them from their plight.
The Labour Amendment Bill was triggered by massive job losses countrywide following a Supreme Court ruling delivered on July 17 that gave employers the right to terminate employee’s contracts on three months’ notice.
Parliamentarians voted for amendments that call for mutual agreement between the employer and the employee on conditions of termination and at least a payment of a month’s salary for two years before one is relieved of their duties.
While labour unions and many workers have celebrated the proposed amendments that sailed through Parliament and await the President’s signature to become law, former Mwana Africa workers say they have nothing to smile about since the legislation is silent on how to treat their particular case and that of thousands of workers who worked for Mashava and Zvishavane Mines for example.
“To most of us fired illegally in 2007, we see hope in the Labour Bill Amendments because it is said the amendments work retrospectively to July 17, 2015, leaving us completely out of the equation for benefitting us,” said Anwene Mandaza, one of the Mwana Africa ex-workers.
Mandaza said the problems started when the gold mining concern trading as Freda Rebecca Mine allegedly retrenched workers and failed to pay them retrenchment packages since 2007. The company went on to threaten to evict workers from the houses they were given under former mining giant Ashanti Goldfields “Pay to own” housing schemes in Chipadze and Batanai residential areas.
According to one of the affected workers Charles Nyemba, Mwana Africa management currently running the mine after it was bought from Ashanti Goldfields is corrupt and bent on swindling those workers that had completed paying for the housing schemes with the former owners.
“I have a Receipt Number 26061 bearing Ashanti Goldfields letterhead dated 25 October 2005 the description of which says it was my final instalment for a house in the Batanai Residential area – a housing scheme that was run by the mine to avail affordable houses for the workers.
“After fully paying for the house, I was surprised that after being retrenched without any benefits, new Mwana Africa management now wants us out of the houses we fully contributed towards their purchase on a monthly basis for over ten years. This is despite the fact that we have pay-slips with monthly deductions for the houses,” said Nyemba.
Despite possessing ample evidence showing that the workers are bona fide owners of the house, Nyemba said he was surprised to be served with a writ of ejectment from Mwana Africa legal representatives from Magwaliba and Kwirira law firm.
This is under Case Number HC3273/08 but the company has not yet taken action to evict the workers eight years after the judgement, Nyemba added.
A widow whose husband died in 2011 without receiving his package after being retrenched in 2007, Lucia Mawurani, said her husband had died a pauper and the only source of hope and livelihood he had left for his family was the house in Batanai that he had paid for the entire time he worked for the mine.
“We were given title deeds by a company called Coglen, Welsh and Guest but Mwana Africa management withdrew them from us on the grounds that they wanted to regularize them and never returned the title deeds to us.
“Mwana Africa management forcibly evicted me from the house and I am now living like a destitute with my children no longer going to school because I can’t afford the fees,” Mawurani said.
The ex-workers, numbering over 300, accused former Mwana Africa chief executive officer Kalaa Mpinga of bribing magistrates to make rulings against them despite the fact that they had documentary evidence to prove that they indeed owned the houses.
Efforts to get comments from Mwana Africa management were futile as this reporter was continuously told to come at later dates when those authorized to talk to the media were available.
As if their plight was not severe enough, the workers were also being forced to pay monthly subscriptions of $50 by their local representative committee ostensibly to appeal a labour case they lost against their former employer and to regularize their stay at Batanai Houses.
Corruption cases have also been brought to the attention of a non-governmental anti-corruption body, Transparency International Zimbabwe which promised to pursue them to finality until justice was done to all the concerned parties.
Recent pronouncements by Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Prisca Mupfumira that the Labour Amendment Bill will be continuously reviewed gave some ray of hope to the miners but who say they want the process expedited.