By Criswell Chisango
CHEGUTU- Unemployed forty seven year widow Mbuya Fatima Muchona looks distressed, without hope that she may get ‘’piece work’’ paid in cash or kind with maize or wheat within surrounding Chegutu farming town, a former beacon of horticulture and commercial farming here.
She is desperate to feed her eight grand children but the new farmers hardly pay on time making her life hopeless.
Chegutu situated about 100 kilometers along Harare-Bulawayo road had productive farms in horticulture including cabbages, beans, potatoes, winter wheat and maize, oranges among others but now looks deserted as new farmers fail to make an impact on agriculture sector here.
‘’We used to do piece works at farms such as KwaBeatrice but new farmers hardly employ us. It is becoming tough for us’’, she said a widow, a mother of five children looking after eight grand children aged between four and fifteen years.
Part of statistics
Muchona is part of statistics of former farm workers battling to make ends meet in Mashonaland West province whose economic base hinged on farming, mining, tourism and fisheries but all sectors are in distress with former workers’ hope diminishing daily.
David Mutambirwa, General Agriculture and Plantations Workers Union of Zimbabwe, Gapwuz senior provincial officer admitted that farming is fraught with lack of payment by new farmers.
‘’We had the mandate to enforce Statutory Instrument 232 0f 1993 that required workers to be paid on the fourth day of the following month. Unfortunately, it is no longer the case as workers go for almost six months without salaries. Most new farmers are abusing workers’’ said Mutambirwa.
He lamented workers living conditions following a spate of vandalism on farms.
Ex mine workers in Kadoma gold mines, Mhangura, Sheckleton and Alaska are not happy either.
Roger Mhlotswa, a former workers representative in Alaska admitted that former workers are now destitute.
‘’It is getting tough for some former mine workers battling to get pensions as they are still below retirement age of 55-60. Most of those affected by mine closure were in prime age of 35 to 40 years. It is unfortunate that some have since passed on without getting their benefits affecting their children’’, added Mhlotswa.
He said workers were condemned to death due to high toxic chemicals during operations.
‘’Some workers suffered from pneumoconiosis and could not be assisted by anyone after they were laid off’’ he said.
Pneumoconiosis is an occupational lung and a restrictive lung disease caused by inhaling of organic and non organic dusts which are then retained in the lungs.
He blamed Government on its poor policies to cater for former mine workers.
‘’It seems our Government has no sound policies for former mine workers as we are living in abject poverty’’ he said.
On the other hand Kariba fishermen are in distress impacting negatively on the fisheries and tourism sector in resort town.
Kariba Cooperative Association chairman Joshua Zvanyanya admitted that cooperatives have gone down in Kariba due to high permits costs required by National Parks affecting operations.
‘’Cash crunch is affecting majority of our members formally unemployed. We are in distress to revive the economy through job creation’’ says Zvanyanya.
As the nation ponders on the recent 20 000 job losses, Mashonaland West province is battling to retain its bread basket status of the country.
Mbuya Muchona does not believe she may get a reprieve soon for her grandchildren.
‘’Three of my sons were not spared by these job losses and am suffering here’’, she said without any hope if things will ever change for majority of unemployed Zimbabwe with estimated 80 percent of the population.