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SMM workers’ lives on knife-edge

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The fate of workers at Shabanie Mashaba Mines (SMM Holdings) is hanging precariously.

Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa on Monday told the Parliament Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy that chances of restituting workers who have been made redundant and have gone for years without pay would remain a pipe dream for as long as there was no investor forthcoming to resuscitate the asbestos mines.

Chinamasa told the committee chaired by Guruve South lawmaker Edward Chindori-Chininga that the situation the workers at the asbestos mines found themselves in could only be resolved once investment of $115 million was found.

Highfield East MP Pearson Mungofa had asked Chinamasa to explain to the committee the number of years the workers had gone without salaries and if at all they had any constitutional rights to claim the outstanding salaries.

“How much has the SMM Holdings case cost the government of Zimbabwe to date?” Mungofa asked Chinamasa. “For how many years have workers at the mine not been paid, and do they have any constitutional rights to claim that money?”

“I do not have the answer to the first question. However, with respect to the second question pertaining to the workers — of course they have rights that they can exercise. However, even if they exercised them now, the company has no money and their claims cannot be honoured,” Chinamasa replied.

Before mining operations stopped at Shabanie, Gaths and Mashaba asbestos mines, approximately 5 600 people were employed and they produced 12 000 tonnes of asbestos a month.

More than 60 000 people in and around Zvishavane and Mashava relied directly and indirectly on the activities of the mines.

When the mines and energy committee visited Shabanie Mine, last year, representatives from the workers’ committee broke down before the MPs and said they could no longer pay school fees for their children and were suffering due to the collapse of the asbestos mines.

During the hearing where Chinamasa appeared before the mines committee, the minister said Mawere did not care about the collapse of SMM Holdings.

“Mawere did not own, neither did he care about SMM Holdings. The collapse of the mines did not bother Mawere as he had never paid a cent for the purchase of the SMM Holdings shares from T&N,” Chinamasa alleged.

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