FIREWORKS are expected at Hwange Colliery Company Limited when Mines and Mining Development minister Walter Chidhakwa visits the company today on a fact-finding mission, following the expiry of a 90-day ultimatum for management to improve production or be shown the exit door.
BY CLANTON SIMUCHEMBU
Accompanying the minister will be his deputy, Fred Moyo, other senior ministry officials and the colliery’s board members.
The visit to the mine comes at a time when the company’s workers have gone for close to 30 months without salaries, while there were accusations that some senior managers were secretly advancing themselves salaries.
Some workers have, in the past few weeks, filed an application at the High Court in Bulawayo for the company to be placed under judicial management, as a way of protecting it against litigation and also called for the firing of some senior managers, whom they accused of corruption and mismanagement, among other issues.
According to the itinerary seen by NewsDay yesterday, the minister is scheduled to have a meeting with the board of directors and executive management at the head office boardroom in the morning, before having a similar meeting with the National Employment Council leadership at the same premises.
Chidhakwa and his team will also meet workers’ representatives before rounding off with the Zanu PF provincial leadership.
“The visit comes at an opportune time, as the minister, last year, came out in the open and threatened to fire management if they failed to improve production within three months,” an unnamed union leader said.
“There has not been any improvement since the issuing of the ultimatum, with the situation compounded by constant breakdown of recently-imported machinery.”
The tour follows an embarrassing incident last year where Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko was sold a dummy when he was made to commission $32 million mining equipment, some of which was second-hand and obsolete.
One of Hwange Colliery’s largest shareholders, Nicholas van Hoogstraten, was last year quoted in the media expressing reservations at the importation of the equipment, alleging there was “gross corruption” in the acquisition of the machinery, which he reportedly said was bought from Third World countries.
Government, through the Mines ministry, reluctantly admitted that some of the machinery, bought from India, was faulty and it was in the process of seeking a refund or replacements.