HUNDREDS of unpaid National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) employees yesterday held peaceful demonstrations at their workstations throughout the country to press for payment of their outstanding salaries and resignation of acting general manager Lewis Mukwada over his failure to turn around the parastatal’s fortunes.
Addressing workers in Gweru, president of the Railway Association of Yard Operating Staff, George Chatambirwa, said they were surprised that Mukwada was still in office when he had failed the selection test.
“We wrote a petition to the Transport minister (Obert Mpofu) and top of the list was the issue of management,” Chatambirwa said.
“We told the Vice-President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) that management has failed. We also hear that Mukwada has continued even after he failed a selection test. What is he still doing there?”
The NRZ workers have gone for 10 months without salaries.
“We went to the Vice-President and he said he would talk to the President (Robert Mugabe) and the Transport minister. We are expecting something to be done,” Chatambirwa said.
Since dollarisation in 2009, the parastatal has accrued a $144 million debt and in the first five months of 2014 registered a deficit of $17 million.
Government recently said it was negotiating with the Development Bank of South Africa for a $700 million loan to rehabilitate the parastatal’s obsolete equipment. Addressing striking workers in Harare, NRZ trade unionist Sinikiwe Ncube said workers’ unions met Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko on April 14 over the same issues and to date their grievances had not been addressed.
In Bulawayo, secretary-general of the Railway Artisan Union (RAU) Farai Dambudzo said the workers were now tired of NRZ mismanagement. “The demonstrations will be held every day for two hours in Bulawayo, Harare, Mutare and Gweru because the management has failed,” he said.
In Mutare, RAU president Shepherd Mutakura vowed to continue demonstrating until their grievances were resolved.
“The issue of demonstrations is not the first time as we have been doing it before and we are not on strike, but we are simply demonstrating,” Mutakura said.
The demonstrations are expected to continue until Friday.