PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has intervened in a labour dispute between Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) and its employees which had seen the workers’ spouses protesting since Monday. Wives of HCCL employees have been demanding that the coal mining company fulfils its pledge to pay them outstanding salaries after agreeing to a scheme of arrangement last year.
Hundreds of women camped at the management office in Hwange where they used tree branches to close gates to block management from entering the premises. Some of them have been sleeping at the premises as part of their demonstration. Yesterday Home Affairs Minister Dr Obert Mpofu visited Hwange and addressed the protesters. He said he had been sent by President Mnangagwa to listen to their concerns as Government is committed to addressing workers’ welfare.
“I am from this place and it pains me to see this. The President sent me to come and talk to you and listen to your grievances. We understand all your issues which border around non-payment of salaries and hunger. I am here to get your concerns which I will present to the President tomorrow. What I can say is that we have heard your concerns and I plead with you to give us time and I will be back to report to you and my promise is that on Monday Government will give its position,” said Dr Mpofu.
He said Government was committed to workers’ welfare. The minister said President Mnangagwa had directed that the demonstrators must not be victimised. “If his Excellency and his deputies didn’t care about you we wouldn’t be here. Let’s work together in a way that helps the country. It’s touching the way you have handled this issue and presented your grievances. Women are the worst affected hence you are here and there could be some people who could be making promises to you, but I tell you this is not political. The President has been touring other countries where the world has pledged support. Give him time to deal with your issues in management, operations and women,” he said.
The employees’ wives resorted to a demonstration after management reneged on paying them outstanding salaries in terms of the scheme of arrangement reached last year. Yesterday, the women said they wanted the managing director Engineer Thomas Makore removed from the post. Ms Thokozile Ncube who briefed the minister on behalf of the women, handed over a petition with their grievances.
“Our husbands haven’t been paid since October last year and we were shocked when we were told that the money will be paid in July. Our husbands are being harassed while our children are no longer going to school and some marriages have broken up,” she said. Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president Mr Peter Mutasa also handed over a copy of the protesters’ grievances to the minister after the trade union body also addressed the women.
Dr Mpofu asked the demonstrators to remove the barricades into the offices and allow management into the premises, but they refused saying they will continue camping at the gate until their demands are met.
Women who spoke to our Bulawayo Bureau said they had been reduced to beggars as they were failing to look after their families, while children of some had dropped out of school. “What the company is doing to us is not good at all. We are literally living in abject poverty as a result of non-payment of salaries. We can no longer afford to send our children to school and after enduring for so long the company begins to play games with us. Until we get answers we are going to be here,” said another.
Others said families were breaking down as there was no longer any joy in their homes since fights over money were becoming a common thing. Efforts to contact Mr Makore were fruitless as his mobile phone was not reachable.