LEGISLATORS yesterday blasted the government and Mines minister Winston Chitando for failing to resolve the long-running strike by wives of Hwange Colliery Company workers.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Chitando had appeared before the Temba Mliswa-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy to speak on different mining issues when MPs grilled him over the salary wrangle at Hwange Colliery, which has seen workers’ wives picketing at the company offices for over three months demanding their husbands’ outstanding salaries.
“There is no urgency because when Cecil the lion died in Hwange, there was a lot of respect given to the lion, but now, there are these women demonstrating, but the attitude is like that we do not care about people, we only care about the animals in Hwange,” MDC-T legislator Fanny Chirisa said.
Chitando said the problem with the Hwange case was that the $10 million once-off payment that the workers were demanding was impossible for the company to raise because of its negative balance sheet.
He said the government had sent Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu and Labour minister Petronella Kagonye to address the striking women without success.
“When Kagonye came back, she told me she had met the women and they had agreed to leave the Hwange Colliery premises, but I was embarrassed the following day when MPs asked me questions in Parliament and I told them that the women had left when actually the women had gone back to the Hwange premises,” Chitando said.
“At the end of the day, it is not achievable to have $10 million paid out to them because there is no bank that can lend Hwange that kind of money. On the issue of the sale of Hwange houses, Hwange is a quoted company and to sell their houses, it means it can only be done in June or July through an extraordinary meeting. However, there are two companies that have been engaged to do a valuation of the houses.”
He said the government had tried to meet the workers’ demands, and had agreed that their May salaries would be fully paid.
Chitando said some of the reasons that exacerbated Hwange Colliery’s problems were that they were operating on a cash basis, as they cannot get credit lines from banks.