ZESA Holdings’ employees who participated in a demonstration over a string of dodgy energy deals entered between flamboyant businessman Wicknell Chivayo and the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) — a unit of the power utility firm — are facing arrest after defying a court order.
The employees took part in a demonstration on Thursday even after High Court judge Happious Zhou barred them from protesting pending the finalisation of show-cause order proceedings from the Public Service ministry.
Zesa Holdings’ lawyer Taona Sibanda on Thursday said he was moving to have the employees brought to book for defying the court order.
The demonstration by the workers comes after ZPC and Chivayo’s Intratek Zimbabwe (Private) Limited signed mega solar deals that came under intense spotlight in recent weeks, amid serious investigations that included the need by the businessman to provide bank statements, cash books and documentation in relation to the energy contracts.
The employees accused the company — in their notice announcing their bid to demonstrate dated December 8, 2017 — of ignoring their concerns and demands.
“We wrote a letter of demand to the Zesa CEO,…but no serious effort has been made by the employer to attend to our demands, major amongst them accounting for the money given to one, …Chivayo, senseless tariff increases and refusal by the employer to implement the 2012 CBA (collective bargaining agreement)…,” the employees said.
Chivayo’s deals have been marred in controversy following a $5 million pay-out to his company to work on a 100 Megawatt Gwanda solar plant in a $200 million tender, amid indications that he had received several other tenders from ZPC.
Some of the tenders include a tender for the refurbishment of the Harare Power Station at a cost of $73 million, $163 million for the restoration of the Munyati Power Station and $248 million for the Gairezi Power project.
The employees said they are bitter that the company was seized with a bid to patronise former first lady Grace Mugabe at the expense of crucial issues that are key to production.
Following the notice from the employees, Zesa Holdings wrote to Public Service minister Petronella Kagonye challenging the workers’ decision to go on strike.
“We view the intended demonstration being orchestrated by the…(Energy Sector Workers Union of Zimbabwe) as a threat of collective job action which falls short of the requirements of the provisions of the Labour Act and therefore unlawful.
“The intended collective job action is likely to negatively affect the operations of the organisation. Zesa falls within the category of an essential service in which workers are barred from engaging in collective job action.
“Accordingly, in terms of Section 106 (1) of the Labour Act, we hereby apply for the issuance of a show cause order against the Energy Sector Workers Union of Zimbabwe calling upon it to show cause why a disposal should not be made in relation thereto. We also propose in terms of 106 (2) (a) (b) of the Act that pending the issuance of the disposal order, the unlawful collective action concerned be terminated or postponed or suspended,” the letter dated December 14 reads.
Zesa Holdings, through its lawyer Sibanda, went on to file an urgent chamber application against the Energy Sector Workers Union of Zimbabwe, seeking to stop the demonstration, which had initially been slated for December 15.
According to Rufaro Pasipanodya, the company’s head of corporate services, the union wrote to Zesa Holdings on November 27, 2017, demanding what it called accountability and restoration of corporate legacy.
“The background of this matter is that on or about December 15, 2017, the applicant (Zesa Holdings) gathered through its internal intelligence and security that members associating themselves with the respondent (Energy Sector Workers Union of Zimbabwe) were bent on embarking on a collective job action. Applicant promptly engaged the Ministry of Labour (for) a show cause order against the respondents,” Pasipanodya said.
Pasipanodya further said the actions by the employees are unlawful, as the strike would cripple industries that rely on electricity and ultimately the economy.
“Despite the clear provisions of law, the respondent has persisted in a typical show of lawless and bullish attitude, to forcefully persist with threats of disobedience to the due process of the show cause order,” the court heard. Daily News