At least 179 workers at Vumbachikwe Mine in Gwanda, Matabeleland South province, were arrested yesterday for staging a protest over outstanding salaries.
Anti-riot police were called in to disperse the protesting workers and their wives over unpaid salaries for April, July and October.
Workers committee chairperson Gibson Sibanda yesterday confirmed the arrests.
“Many people were nabbed and taken away by police. People have not been paid for three months and worse they get harassed and arrested for demanding their dues,” Sibanda said.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) is representing the arrested workers.
In a statement, ZLHR said: “Our lawyers Jabulani Mhlanga and Prisca Dube have been advised by [police] that the mine employees will be charged with public violence. They are accused of failing to comply with the conditions which were set for the sanctioned demonstration.”
The standoff between the company management and workers started on Monday last week when the workers’ wives protested at the mine demanding fair treatment for their spouses.
When the company failed to act on their demands, the wives demonstrated again and refused to leave the managers’ offices until their husbands were paid.
- Record breaker Mpofu revisits difficult upbringing
- ED speaks on prices, exchange rate
- Mapeza looks forward to Bosso challenge
- Illegal gold rush fuels violent crimes
This prompted mine management to call anti-riot police who immediately descended on the demonstrators, throwing teargas canisters to disperse them.
The workers have also engaged human rights watchdog, Coalition for Citizens Advocates (Coca) to assist them.
Coca secretary Wilbert Ndiweni said: “As Coca we continue to call upon Vumbachikwe Mine to oblige and address this embarrassing situation. We later received a call from miners who went into hiding after the police pounced on them at 5pm. Gunshots were fired and there were running battles.
“Coca condemns the oppression and violence against the workers and urges management and workers to engage each other in a peaceful way through labour laws.
Efforts to get a comment from mine manager None Kananji were fruitless as his mobile phone was continuously on voice mail.
Matabeleland South acting police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Thandolwenkosi Moyo referred Southern Eye to national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi for a comment on the matter.
Nyathi confirmed the demonstration and police intervention at the mine.
Nyathi, however, added: “I need to find out more details from police in Gwanda.”