HWANGE Colliery Company has tabled plans to sell its residential properties in colliery town to raise at least $300 million required to pay workers’ outstanding salaries which have ballooned to over $70 million.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Board member Ntombizodwa Masuku announced the proposal yesterday when she appeared before the Temba Mliswa-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, where she also disclosed that the coal mine needed a capital injection of around $500 million to recover.
Masuku, who was accompanied by Hwange Colliery Company chief executive officer Thomas Makore, said the company was considering selling its residential properties to the workers as part of reducing the salary backlog.
“We are doing everything possible to ensure that workers are given their due benefits, and we have a plan to sell the town to the tune of $300 million and sell some of the houses because the company is in possession of 5 000 houses, which we do not need and some of these houses are occupied by some of our former workers,” she said.
“We would request the Ministry of Local Government to purchase the houses so that we clean our balance sheet to pay the creditors, while the workers will be given an opportunity to purchase some of the houses.”
The colliery company’s board member claimed that they had an obligation to pay $1,8 million every month to workers, adding that they were up to date, and that the last payment was made on April 25.
However, she said the Hwange Colliery Company workers were working on a two-week shift basis, which meant that they were getting 50% of their normal salaries.
Masuku added that they were also toying with the idea of retrenching some of the workers after it emerged that the company only required 1 000 out of a current workforce of 2 045 workers.
“Our hope is that once we reach our plant production levels, we will be on the road to recovery because what we need is capital injection of $500 million and equipment. We also owe government and we are faced with a lot of challenges in terms of maintenance of infrastructure because HCC is maintaining infrastructure like water, roads, the hospitals and others, while other coal players are benefiting from it, but not paying anything.”
She said the $70 million owed to workers dated back to five years, as the debt accumulated due to problems faced by the company such as debts, breakdown of equipment, and high production costs which were causing the company to fail to break even.
However, Hwange is said to have vast coal resources which can last for up to 50 years.