The 115 workers sang revolutionary songs, beat drums before sealing off the farmhouse exit, demanding their money. Sensing danger, a frightened Zhuwao, who is Zanu PF MP for Zvimba East constituency, scaled the fence and eventually escaped using a back exit much to the chagrin of the irate workers.
A worker at the farm, who refused to be identified for fear of victimisation, said they only became confrontational after failing to engage Zhuwao through peaceful means.
“Zhuwao has not paid us for three months but what has really angered us is that he is being elusive,” said the worker.
The workers said they were also infuriated by the fact that whenever they raised the issue of payment, Zhuwao would accuse them of being influenced by Francis Mukwangariva, a Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operative also eyeing Zvimba East in the upcoming polls.
Zhuwao yesterday confirmed that he was held hostage and that the workers had since sealed him off the farm until he brings their wages. “I can confirm that I have not paid my workers for the last three months due to some financial constraints,” said Zhuwao.
“Remember, I am a tobacco farmer and I can only pay them after selling my tobacco, which can be anytime soon. But the unfortunate part is that they have sealed me off the farm.”
He said he would not report to the police, as the matter was a labour issue. The workers have since camped at the farm house, vowing to remain put until Zhuwao gave them their dues.
In an application for a show cause order to Chinhoyi Provincial Labour Office, dated May 4 2012, Zhuwao requested the labour office to provide a ruling declaring the strike illegal.
“The illegality of the strike and its associated disturbances is premised on the understanding that the workers failed to give fourteen working days notice of their intention to engage in such an action,” reads the letter.
“Neither the police nor the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare were informed.” Zhuwao said the aggrieved permanent employees were threatening casual workers with violence should they continue to work at the farm.
Although the exact amount owed to workers was not stated, Zhuwao said he had 30 000 kg of tobacco at the farm, which he expected to sell in order to clear a US$121 079 debt to Tian Ze Tobacco Company.
“This therefore means that I will have sufficient resources (US$78 811) to clear wages subject to my being able to continue grading the tobacco and delivering it to Tian Ze Tobacco Company,” said Zhuwao.