By Kenneth Matimaire
Mutare, April 11, 2016 – WORKERS have attacked government over its decision to take over a diamond concession mined by the Development Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ)-OZGEO without considering their welfare.
Speaking through their representative, the Zimbabwe Diamond Miners Workers Union (ZDMWU), the irate workers described the move as a boardroom takeover as no information was relayed to them over the latest development, which directly affects them.
The workers questioned government’s sincerity in securing their source of livelihood as they were not invited them to the negotiating table to raise issues to do with their welfare considering that they have not been paid since August last year.
“The government is just doing as they want without consulting the workers. All the workers from DTZ were sent home in August last year, over non-payment of wages. And this takeover is a boardroom thing, where employees do not know what is happening there. We just got to know of it through the newspapers. They never engaged the workers.
“And there is nothing that is being said regarding employees, from the minister’s office and the company,” said ZDMWU secretary general Justice Chinhema.
DTZ-OZGEO is a joint venture between the Zanu PF investment vehicle, Development Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ), which has a 40 percent shareholding stake and Russian company, Econendra Limited (60 percent).
It was operating a diamond mine in Chimanimani’s Taka Forest where it had heavily invested in the mine, which has a capacity to produce 50 000 carats per month.
Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa recently indicated that government sealed talks to consolidate the concession under its Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), which has also taken over Chiadzwa diamond concession.
“We had very warm discussions with the Russians. They have indicated that they are very supportive of government policy. They are not going to fight the intention of government to consolidate their mining concession into the ZCDC,” he said without mentioning anything to do with the welfare of workers.
The mine employed over 200 workers, whose jobs are now hanging by the thread at a time they are owed outstanding wages by the miner.
The workers are concerned whether their jobs are still secure or can still recover their outstanding salaries.
“We are told that employees have to apply to government to be readmitted, this means there is no guarantee or security regarding their jobs. Who are they going to engage for their outstanding salaries?
“Our position was that, we wanted the minister to assure us that no company mining diamonds not to remove their property without settling all outstanding salaries,” said Chinhema.
Chinhema said they are currently mobilising all diamond workers who have been affected by the diamond consolidation exercise to camp at the minister’s office in protest.
He said of the 10 000 workers that were employed in Chiadzwa, 8 000 had been retrenched and the future of the remaining 2 000 hangs in the balance.
“Imagine that when diamond operations started in Chiadzwa, 10 000 workers were employed. But only 2 000 remained after the rest were retrenched in unclear circumstances. And the consolidation process has further threatened the few that were still employed.
“So as a union, we are mobilising all diamond workers that were affected to camp at the minister’s office because we have tried to use formal channels to raise our concerns to them but failed. This is the only language I think they can understand, so we are going to be confrontational,” he said.