Wellington Chibebe, the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), has demanded the immediate resignation of Shabanie Mashaba Mines (SMM) Holdings curator Afaras Gwaradzimba.
Chibebe said in a statement on Tuesday that Gwaradzimba had failed to administer the affairs of SMM Holdings and called on Parliament to institute a commission of inquiry to urgently look into the issues affecting the mine.
Chibebe said he was not impressed by the manner in which Gwaradzimba had run down the mines he was supposed to reconstruct.
“The mines were doing better before they were placed under judicial management and what the judicial manager has simply done is to fast-track their shutting down,” said Chibebe. “We are dismayed that one Afaras Gwaradzimba chooses to say operations have been suspended instead of letting everyone know that it is indeed a shut-down.”
He said ZCTU demanded to know if SMM Holdings owed Gwaradzimba anything and why he had failed to date to provide meaningful statistics on how much asbestos was being produced as well as the sales figures.
Chibebe reiterated Minister of Finance Tendai Biti’s statements during the 2011 National Budget presentation last week that government should not let Shabanie Mines fold as it was a source of livelihood for thousands of people who worked at the asbestos mine.
“Thousands of jobs and livelihoods in Zvishavane are at risk with revelations that Shabanie Mine has stopped operations, a situation that could have been avoided had government not greedily waded into the operations of the mines,” said Chibebe.
He continued: “The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions is on record as saying government’s interests in Shabanie and Mashaba mines were purely political and now that political bigwigs have ‘looted’ they are leaving the mines to close.”
Chibebe said what was disheartening about the SMM issue was that the ZCTU warned the authorities of a pending crisis at the mines but no one took heed.
“In February 2010 we sounded warning bells of the threat that the mines may shut down but authorities failed to act in order to prevent this. This is insensitivity because thousands of lives are being pushed into abject poverty yet such a situation could have been averted,” said Chibebe.
Zvishavane MP Obert Matshalaga (Zanu PF) confirmed to NewsDay that lives of thousands of mine employees and their families had been drastically affected by the non-performance of the mine.
He said many children in his constituency had started to engage in anti-social and illegal activities like prostitution and gold panning to earn a living.
MPs seconded to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy have also called on government to consider the SMM Holdings issue as an urgent humanitarian case.