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Safari operator ‘hires’ CIOs to intimidate workers

Local News
A TOP safari operator Wilderness Safaris has been accused of violating the rights of its employees, including allegedly hiring suspected State security agents to intimidate them.

A TOP safari operator Wilderness Safaris has been accused of violating the rights of its employees, including allegedly hiring suspected State security agents to intimidate them.

The safari operates camps and mobile safaris on the continent include in countries such as Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, among others.

The workers claimed that they have been on short-term contracts for more than 10 years.

Another aggrieved worker based at a camp in Hwange said it was difficult to plan when one is on short-term contract.

“It has been almost 10 years renewing the same contract for nine months every year. Under this condition, it is difficult to plan for the future,” the disgruntled worker said.

The workers alleged that two officials from the President’s Department visited the company and “told us to work saying they will deal with us if we disturb the operations at the camp”.

“We viewed this as intimidation to us not to complain over unfair labour practices,” the worker said.

A shareholder, Edison Kadzombe, did not confirm or deny the allegations,  only saying he was not involved in day-to-day operations.

“The allegations raised are primarily operational issues, which fall within the purview of the company’s management. I cannot, therefore, confirm or deny their accuracy as the issues raised are not within my knowledge,” Kadzombe said.

“However, due to the gravity of the issues raised, I undertake to carry out investigative exercises upon my return to Zimbabwe in order to ascertain the correct factual position.”

Managing director Dean Morton denied the allegations, and instead blamed some employees of trying to hold the company to ransom.

He also said he would not discuss contract details of employees in the Press as they were confidential.

“We do not intend to answer to each, and every allegation contained in your WhatsApp message and email and our failure to do so should not be construed as an admission to such allegations,” Morton said.

“We vehemently deny all allegations of any unfair labour practices and irregularities against the employees of Wilderness.

“We must respect the privacy and confidentiality of our employees (past, present and future) and, in terms of privacy laws, we are prohibited from sharing personal information about employees with any third parties.”

Morton confirmed that some government officials visited the camps recently, but denied that they were there to intimidate workers.

“We furthermore specifically deny that we have engaged government or the Office of the Presidency to intimidate staff members and dismiss the allegations contained in your WhatsApp as entirely baseless and without merit.

“We can confirm that government officials recently visited one of our camps as a courtesy visit to showcase our business and its contributions to conservation and the Zimbabwean economy,” Morton said.

“It may be useful to note that we are currently dealing with an internal matter with an employee that is actively trying to extort money from the business.”

The company has several camps in Zimbabwe that include Linkwasha, Little Makalolo, Davison’s, Makalolo, Kashawe, Ruckomechi, Chikwenya and Little Ruckomechi, among others.

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