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Zimplats in racial storm

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NGEZI — Employees working on the Zimplats Ngezi Phase III expansion project downed tools on Monday in protest over allegations of racial abuse by South African managers.

Report by Blessed Mhlanga

The platinum firm contracted South Africa-based DRA to run the Phase III project, which contracted fellow South African company SMEI.

SMEI then subcontracted Kwekwe-based engineering company Oliken.

Workers at the platinum giant claimed that the South African firm was bussing in whites to grab top jobs and contracts at their expense.

The storm was allegedly sparked by the recent promotion of Andre Humphries by the contracted company DRA to the position of supervisor, which did not go down well with employees leading to the downing of tools on Monday.

“Zimplats has been contracting South African companies owned by whites for multimillion dollar projects, while Zimbabweans are being sidelined.

“We have seen less qualified whites come here to take top jobs yet most of the time they have no clue as to what they will be doing,” said an employee.

Zimplats head of corporate communications Busi Chindove said the company would investigate the allegations.

“We do not condone racism at any level and we will launch an investigation into these allegations.”

“Should we find these allegations to be true, we will take very firm action and set a precedent that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated in the company either from employees or contractors,” reads the statement.

While confirming that there was a work stoppage, Zimplats attributed it to an accident which occurred at the plant last Friday.

“Following an incident that occurred on Friday December 7, the mines inspector, with the support of Zimplats, has issued a work stoppage order at the affected site to allow investigations into the cause of the accident,” reads the statement in part.

“This is consistent with our values and policies that no person is allowed to work in an unsafe environment”.

However, employees insist they refused to work under Humpries whose qualifications they doubted.

NewsDay was shown his curriculum vitae that indicated Humpries had no engineering qualifications.

The aggrieved workers claim he had no capacity to lead a team of qualified artisans and fitters on the project.

“As you can see, his highest qualification is Grade 12. This is the person being given the job to be project supervisor and we are supposed to work under him. That will not happen,” said another source.
In a letter of complaint handed over to management and the Ministry of Labour, the workers claim they had suffered abuse especially at the hands of one Gawie Van Der Vasthueizen.

It has since emerged that SMEI was forced to send Humpries back to South Africa over the matter.

Zimplats management confirmed that Humphries had been asked to leave the plant as the company opened investigations into serious allegations of racism levelled against SMEI and GRA another SA company.

“Yes Humphries has been asked to leave the plant following a list of grievances which were handed over to us, but I can tell you that the workers are happy with the stance,” said a Zimplats official.
The workers said they were now ready to go back to work after swift action taken by Zimplats to try and address the problems faced by the workers.

Chindove confirmed the company had received a letter from the workers revoking the job action.

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