Two months after being called back to work with a promise of earning regular salaries, employees at Shabanie Mashava Mine (SMM) now face a bleak festive season.
There is no sign the comatose asbestos mines are going to resume operations anytime soon.
As if that was not enough, about 300 former workers have reportedly been fired for failing to report for duty when their new employer, the Zimbabwe Mineral Development Company (ZMDC) recalled them.
There is still no activity at the company, with only skeletal staff manning the mine pumps and security at the premises two months after the new employer took over.
An estimated 1 300 workers streamed back to work in anticipation of better fortunes, with others who had secured employment elsewhere dumping their jobs for SMM.
Workers’ representatives accused the ZMDC of reneging on salary back-pay pledges.
Shabanie Mine ex-workers’ representative board secretary-general Menyani Phiri told NewsDay workers were living in dire poverty and faced a cheerless Christmas at a time Zimbabwe was enjoying significant economic recovery.
“Some of the workers have put 35 years of their lives into Shabanie and when they were called back they left the informal jobs they were doing and came back in the hope that they would get their pensions on top of their back-pay,” said Phiri.
Although the company remains closed, workers are required to report for work daily and get their names recorded by a company representative and those who fail to report for five days are fired.
Phiri said so far the company had fired 300 workers who did not report for work even though the company was not paying salaries.
A 53-year-old mine worker who started work at SMM in 1979, said life was unbearable, but said he could not leave before getting his dues.
He joins other workers every day who report to the representatives of ZMDC between 7am and 10am or risk getting fired.
“We are being used and have been turned into poor fools. We report for work every day for no pay and get our names entered in a register then we go back home. It means one can’t work elsewhere except at SMM with no pay,” he said.