HWANGE district administrator Simon Muleya yesterday convened an urgent crisis meeting with Sino-Hydro and Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) management, chiefs and Zanu PF officials to discuss employment modalities for the expansion of stages 7 and 8 in the aftermath of protests by local youths earlier this week.
BY TINASHE MUNGAZI
Muleya confirmed the closed-door meeting, but refused to give details.
On Tuesday youths, mostly from Zanu PF, besieged ZETDC offices, demanding equal employment opportunities in the project.
Sources close to the developments revealed that the youths were irked when they learnt that the company had employed people from Bulawayo to fill in advertised data capturing posts, sidelining locals, resulting in them picketing at the company premises. However, on the second day of the protest, the police were called in to disperse the protesters.
“What happened was that these people were employed from Bulawayo and 10 of them were brought to Hwange depot while another six were sent to Victoria Falls ahead of locals. When this information got to the youths, they staged a protest for two days outside ZETDC offices demanding their removal. The company finally succumbed to pressure from the protesters, resulting in the ‘foreigners’ being sent back home. However, yesterday the police descended on the protesters and beat up some, resulting in four people sustaining injuries.
“The police are supposed to protect us, not beat us up for demanding our rights,” a protester, who fell victim to the police intervention, said.
Youths in Hwange have always cried foul over loss of employment opportunities as companies recruit people from other towns.
Last year, former Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda, who hails from Binga, had to intervene after ZPC contractors bussed people from as far as Mutare to work at the station while sidelining locals.
Confirming the skirmishes, Zanu PF provincial youth political commissar Norah Dube said loss of employment opportunities for locals had triggered the protests.
“The youths were angered to learn that ZETDC had employed 16 ‘foreigners’ out of the 20 vacancies that had been advertised for data capture posts. We found that as unfair on the hundreds of unemployed youths in the district and decided to stage a demonstration to demand their removal. We agreed that when any companies which come to Hwange require people they come to us and we will supply the people needed,” she said.
Dube accused ZPC of scuttling President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s quest to create jobs for youths and devolution.
Efforts to get a comment from officer commanding Hwange police, Chief Superintendent Newton Mutomba were fruitless as he was unreachable.
ZPC and Sino-Hydro officials also refused to comment.
Sources privy to the meeting said chiefs had expressed bitterness at the way companies were sidelining locals and demanded that local youths be given priority when job opportunities arise. Sino-Hydro, which won the tender to expand Hwange Power Station, is set to employ an initial 50 people as the project takes shape.