Villagers Turn Up The Heat On Chinese Employers

By Nhau Mangirazi

Hurungwe, August 17, 2018 – VILLAGERS hired two years ago by a local community mine are up in arms with their Chinese employers who they accuse of inhuman treatment and violating their labour rights.

They have now dragged their boss identified as Tein to a Karoi labour court alleging that they have been made to work as “slaves” without being allowed to take days off.

They also accuse their employer of sending them to work without any protective clothing while they were, equally, being underpaid.

There were 38 permanent workers and at least 50 casual workers at the mine.

However, there is growing dissent among both workers and villagers who accuse the Chinese project mining tantalite mineral as destructive, non productive and engaging in slavery.

The mine, Long Line under Zim-China project is located about 65 km from Karoi in Hurungwe West constituency under Chief Nyamhunga.

It was established in 2014.

Workers committee chairman, Crosspa Muza said the Chinese are violating the labour laws with impunity.

“None of us has had off days or leave days for the past two years. We are working as slaves without proper job description. There is no good communication with management,” said Muza (36).

Another worker, Owen Kahondo (36) said the local community was still yet to benefit from tantalite mining in the area.

“We understand tantalite is a world market mineral that has added value to the economy but our community is now poorer after the Chinese invasion here.

“The community has not benefited anything. We engaged Chief Nyamhunga to be the mediator over our grievances but without success. There is no community ownership to talk about here,” added Kahondo.

Human waste

In a rather bizarre incident, some workers said they have been made to empty overloaded toilet using buckets.

“We had to drain blocked toilets using buckets and then threw the human waste into Sengwe River that is used by some villagers as a source of drinking water. The contamination caused is inhuman,” said one Favian Chawagarira.

Chawagarira is a builder whose salary was pegged at $300 per month was but was reduced to $150 without any notice three months ago.

In February this year, twenty two workers had $30 each deducted from their wages after they boycotted lunch in protest.

“That day we were not happy over the ill-treatment we were getting from management and we agreed that we boycott lunch but at the end of the month, we had $30 deducted from each of us. Where do you get a plate of sadza costing that much and there has never been any refund,” added Kahondo.

The villagers also blamed local Member of Parliament Keith Guzah for not going to the community to hear their problems.

They said the former MP and now expelled Mashonaland West chairman Temba Mliswa wanted to probe the China saga but has no power after he lost a subsequent the by-election last year.

“Mliswa knows about our plight but we are still yet to engage Guzah who is hardly in the constituency to hear our concerns,” added Chawagarira.

But Guzah, on his part, said he was very concerned about the plight of the villagers and had called for a stakeholders meeting to iron out the differences with the Chinese.

In a written response, Guzah said, “I’ve called for a stakeholders meeting at the mine to explain to me and chief Nyamhunga and the councilors in wards 16 and 17 on these allegations. 

“I’m deeply disturbed by these events and if substantiated, we will proceed and advise the responsible authorities and appropriate action taken before we take our own remedial action.”   

Meanwhile, Tein did not show up at the labour court hearing this week forcing the labour officer forward it to Harare for determination.

He also did not answer calls on his mobile.

Chinese are under fire for deteriorating investment opportunities in the country after the Zanu PF Government focused on Look East policy since 2000 but has turned out to be recipe of disaster for the country.