BY XOLISANI NCUBE
More than 280 workers at Africa Chrome Fields (AFC), a company owned by South Africa-based millionaire Zunaid Moti in partnership with Sakunda Holdings, were last month retrenched due to the prevailing economic crisis in the country.
The mine, located at Chinyika Ranch in Chirumanzu-Zibagwe constituency in Midlands province, sent the workers home, citing low business and high operating costs.
Ashruf Kaka, head of national projects at ACF, confirmed the retrenchments saying it was part of their reorganisation strategy in response to the prevailing economic situation.
“Retrenchments form part of reorganisation when the national financial systems are under pressure for a considerable period and consistently so. The private sector simply adapts to the circumstances. ACF is simply applying common sense and rationale to the financial crises the country faces,” Kaka told The Standard.
The chrome mining company was initially a joint venture between the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) and the Moti Group before Sakunda took over the military stake.
Source said workers were served with retrenchment letters in June and were told to serve the three months’ notice period while their dues were being worked on.
“Things are hard at the company. People are going home,” said a source at the mine.
The sources said the company had not been exporting much chrome as production was low.
“We don’t know what will happen to the 1 000-plus workers that remain because at the moment, we are not operating. The plants are not doing much,” a source said.
Besides the uncertainty of employment, the company has been accused by trade unions of not meeting accepted health standards. Workers were said to be living in tents 50 metres from the plant yet the company was making a lot of money through exports to South Africa.
In 2014, the ZDF entered into a joint venture with ACF to exploit chrome deposits along the mineral-rich Great Dyke stretching approximately 60 square kilometres.
ACF was once granted a duty-free fuel importation certificate by the Ministry of Transport in 2014. The certificate was issued through Central Mechanical Equipment Department (CMED) under Statutory Instrument 184 of 2014).
But three years on, the military lost its shareholding status in what sources said were mysterious circumstances which saw Sakunda become one of the shareholders.
At its peak, African Chrome Fields produced more than 30 000 tonnes of chrome ore a month, which it exported to South Africa.
It had planned to increase that to 65 000 tonnes and also planned to buy chrome from artisanal miners to raise production to 140 000 tonnes.