Shabanie mine workers not paid since 2009
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They have since appealed to former Midlands Governor, Cephas Msipa, to intervene by helping highlight their plight to President Mugabe and other relevant authorities.
On Wednesday, the workers said most of them were selling off household property that they bought during the days when production was at its peak at Shabanie Mine, to raise school fees for their children.
They said they have now gone for two years without receiving a salary or allowance, forcing the majority of them, especially general hands, to depend on firewood poaching and other menial jobs for a living.
"We are suffering my friend. We have not been paid a single cent since the introduction of the multi-currency system in 2009. Most of us are surviving on selling firewood. At times we get piece jobs like digging gardens and cutting poles that we sell to residents in other suburbs.
"We fetch firewood from Texas Farm, about two hours' walk away. Even schoolchildren are involved in fetching firewood and thereafter attend school. Some of us are selling household property to raise fees for our children. In fact, we are selling almost everything that we worked for," said Mr Handina Sithole of Maglas Compound, who has worked for Shabanie Mine for 30 years.
Firewood trade is brisk business in areas like Maglas where the majority of houses in areas like the Z, B and W sections are not electrified.
Mr Sithole said he had to sell some goats and some cows to raise fees for his two children in high school and a third one still in primary school.
"At times I get assistance from my brother who is employed elsewhere.
"This is almost the same situation that every Shabanie Mine worker is facing. At times we are given a few dollars by our friends and relatives who are employed at Mimosa Mine.
"We are now approaching Christmas and we do not even know what to do with our families. We have had so many promises and very little delivery. For how long are we going to continue living on hope? When
ZMDC came on board, we were told that we would be paid three months salary but nothing happened. We did not get even a single cent," he said.
Mr Sithole blasted the workers' committee which he claimed "was bought" by the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation executive as they are often invited to Harare for meetings whose outcome is never communicated to the workers.
Another Shabanie employee, Mr Joseph Phiri (60), also of Maglas, said the company was keeping them in bondage by ensuring that they do not seek employment elsewhere through keeping an attendance register daily.
He said any worker who failed to report by 10am everyday at the company offices would be considered to have been absent from duty.
"It is absurd that we are being forced to report for duty when there is no production taking place. Once you are marked ‘present' on the attendance register, you are then free to go wherever you want.
This is some way of vetting. The system was introduced to flush out those workers who were working elsewhere but remained Shabanie Mine workers on paper. A number of workers were dismissed after it was confirmed that they had been employed at other mines like Blanket Mine and Unki Mine," said Mr Phiri.
Mr Phiri, who has served the asbestos mine for 39 years and will be retiring next month, said he had doubts over his pension.
He said the situation was so bad at Shabanie Mine to the extent that some workers were ill while others were dying due to stress-related problems.
He said the worst affected were those without rural homes, especially people of foreign origin.
"It is really tough here. Those who are dying and others who are alive are likely to have challenges in getting their pensions. That is also my fear that I will not be getting anything when I retire in January. The company should try to give us a few dollars, especially from the money they raise through rentals to help us sustain ourselves. Most houses are now occupied by lodgers, some of them Mimosa workers," said Mr Phiri.
Msipa confirmed meeting a number of Shabanie Mine workers over their predicament.
He said he promised to take up their concerns to the relevant ministry and President Mugabe.
"The workers approached me as a Politburo member and one of the senior citizens of Zvishavane. I have approached everyone who matters on this issue. I have highlighted the issue to President Mugabe, the
Minister of Mines and Mining Development Obert Mpofu, as well as Vice-President Joice Mujuru. President Mugabe and Minister Mpofu promised to help end the challenges being faced by Shabanie workers. I am confident that their problems will soon end," said Msipa.
The former Midlands Governor said it was worrying and pathetic that people with families should go for two years without a salary.
He said people should not mix the ownership problems between Government and former mine owner, Mr Mutumwa Mawere, with the welfare of the workers.
"Imagine 3 500 workers being left without any means of survival. It's painful. As we prepare for Christmas, we should all think about Shabanie Mine workers and do something to cheer them up. I know there are problems with the mine but this should not affect the workers.
"It's a problem between the Government and Mr Mawere," said Msipa.
He said there was once talk of $4 million that had been set aside to pay the workers.
"What happened to that money?" he asked.
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