LABOUR unions have moved in to diffuse the cold war between Detroop mine workers and their Chinese employers following allegations of exploitation and violation of labour and environmental laws at the Mashonaland West project.
BY NHAU MANGIRAZI
The Standard last week reported how senior managers at the mine allegedly abused workers by demanding $50 from each of them every month as payment for job security.
Detroop, situated about 170km north west of Harare under Chief Magonde in Makonde district along Angwa River, is run by China’s Jiangxi Risheng Mining Company.
The Zimbabwe Diamonds Mining Workers’ Union (ZDMWU), which is now representing Detroop miners, said it was already on the ground investigating the allegations following the report of the allegations by The Standard.
“We confirm that most of the allegations made against De troop Mining Company by its employees are indeed true,” ZDMWU secretary-general Justice Chinhema said.
“There is unfair labour practice at the mine as the employees are working overtime without being paid for the overtime worked. To add on to that, there is casualisation of labour, a situation whereby an employee is termed a casual worker but has been working continuously for several months, which is against the Labour Act. Most employees confirmed that they had to bribe senior managers in order to secure their jobs.’’
He said there was also discrimination against women who were allegedly being underpaid on the basis of gender. He also said employees complained that they did not have adequate protective clothing.
“During our visit to Jiangxi Risheng Mine, we also discovered that there were bogus trade unions who were caught up in a web of corruption as they were bribed,” Chinhema said.
“We guarantee the miners that this trade union will not be silenced by anyone regardless of who they are in its quest for justice and for protection of employees’ rights in the mining industry. The matter has already been registered to National Employment Council and unlike those unions who seem to represent the employer, we will make sure that all the mining employers abide by the law.”
He said it was high time employers in the mining industry were warned that the “honeymoon” was over.
“ZDMWU has come to assist mine workers who have suffered for a long time in this industry at the hands of unions that came before us and folded their hands while siding with the employers. This must stop right now. We will fight until miners are also recorded as first class workers in Zimbabwe,’’ said Chinhema in a statement.
Meanwhile, the government may be forced to reverse its decision to evict illegal settlers who have invaded farms in Mashonaland West and the rest of the country as politicians warn this could be “political suicide” ahead of the 2018 elections.
Lands and Rural Settlement minister Douglas Mombeshora had given September 6 this year as deadline for all farm invaders countrywide to leave the farms.
There were also views that evicting invaders ahead of the rainy season would be political suicide.
Hurungwe is one of the most productive districts specialising in both tobacco and maize.
Hurungwe war veterans association district chairperson Joseph Manjengwa confirmed that they submitted their concerns to the local lands committee to “suspend evictions”.
Manjengwa said the move was not proper, especially as the rainy season was approaching.
“We are calling on the government to speed up farm downsizing so that they create space to accommodate the so-called illegal settlers, some of who have valid offer letters,” he said in an interview with The Standard last week.
“If you give a decree that they must go back from where they came from, does it really make sense after 10 years to start afresh? We condemn the move and we call upon the responsible ministry to act on downsizing farms regardless of who owns them.”
Hurungwe Central MP, Godfrey Beremauro said it was unfortunate that settlers being targeted had been given pieces of land by the Hurungwe district council in 2005.
“As far as I am concerned, those people were legally allocated land following a council resolution and ministry officials took time to formalise the settlements citing lack of resources,’’ said Beremauro.
Hurungwe East MP, Sarah Mahoka also said there were no illegal settlers although her constituency had been under spotlight of illegal settlers nicknamed mahalape, especially in ward 3, among other areas such as Mazhaka near Tengwe.
“We do not have any squatters in my constituency and this exercise will not take effect there. All people are legally settled and those without proper documentation will have them formalised instead of evicting them because they are not squatters,” said Mahoka.
Illegal settlers are accused of wreaking havoc in Hurungwe as they are allegedly damaging the environment.
Disgruntled villagers at Nyaramande farm, about 10km out of Karoi town, alleged a group of illegal settlers “bought” plots in a suspected land scam.
“We are deeply concerned that no action has been taken to get rid of the dubious settlers who have taken over our grazing area and are causing environmental disaster for us.
“The main challenge we have is that even the headman is an illegal settler and has fuelled tension between the illegal settlers and the villagers here. The settlers who bought the plots in a land scam are causing land degradation through stream bank cultivation as well as unwarranted forest clearance through brick moulding and firewood sold in Karoi town,’’ said Peter Karima, one of the villagers.
The illegal settlers are being referred to as mahalape, which means the stateless.
Hurungwe district administrator Friend Ngirazi, who chairs the land committee, remained tight-lipped about the issue when approached on how many illegal settlers would be evicted in the district.
“I cannot comment on the issue on my own as we need all committee members to be present,” he said.
Mombeshora was not answering his phone.