Sunday Mail Reporter
Workers and management at Malilangwe Wildlife Trust in Chiredzi are headed for a major showdown over plans to reinforce a âFamily and Visitorsâ policy that will see a limit being put on the number of children a worker can stay with at the company-provided lodgings.
The policy, which will also see some workers being asked to apply for permission to stay with their spouses for a maximum of seven days per calendar month as well as being asked to âregisterâ their spouses and fiancĂ©s with the Trust, puts scores of children at risk of being asked to live away from their parents.
In a notice sent to workers a fortnight ago, the Malilangwe management gave workers up to tomorrow to ensure they comply with the regulations.
âStaff are reminded of the existing Family and Visitors policy (detailed on pages 45-47 of the Staff Policy Handbook) which gives guidance on who is allowed to reside on the property as well as the hosting of visitors.
âManagement has noted with concern that there are some employees who are in violation of this standing policy.
âThe Malilangwe Trust is giving staff members not adhering to this policy up to the 31st of March 2014 to comply and make alternative arrangements for their visitors or family members who are not supposed to be on the property. After the expiry of the grace period, security department and heads of department will be tasked to ensure compliance by all,â reads part of the notice.
The controversial Family and Visitors policy states that employees who reside in one and two-roomed cottages should stay with their âregisteredâ spouses only.
This puts scores of children at risk of being asked to move away from their parents as several workers at the Trust stay together with their spouses and children in the cottages.
Under the policy, scouts at the wildlife sanctuary are also required to seek permission to âhostâ their spouses.
âScouts living in pickets are allowed to accommodate a registered spouse only for a maximum period of seven (7) days per each calendar month. Permission has to be sought from the head of department.
âWhere two-roomed accommodation is provided, sharing ablution facilities, an employee is allowed to accommodate a registered spouse only. In three-roomed house, sharing ablution facilities, the employee is allowed to stay with a registered spouse and two children only.
âWhere a three-bedroomed house is provided (for junior managers), employees are permitted a reasonable number of immediate family members to be accommodated. The director at his sole discretion might limit the number of family members or visitors at any particular time,â reads the policy.
Workers who spoke to The Sunday Mail last week accused the Malilangwe Trust management of being insensitive.
âAt times we wonder if we are in a free Zimbabwe,â said one of them. âHow can we be asked to send our children away? Where will they go? This is grossly unfair and we urge the responsible authorities to come to our rescue.â
Apart from being up in arms with the policy, the workers also allege that they are forced to work long hours and do not have medical aid cover. There are also racism allegations being levelled against estate manager Mr Colin Wenham, who is reported to be in the habit of saying âblack people think and behave like baboons while whites are godsâ.
Malilangwe Trust executive director Mr Mark Saunders defended the policy, arguing that it is meant to benefit the workers.
âWe employ over 360 Zimbabweans and we want to make sure that they fully benefit from the medical and other facilities we offer them, unlike the case now when other people who are not employed by the Trust are also benefiting from these services,â he said.
Mr Saunders, however, became tongue-tied when it was pointed out that the âpersona non gratasâ are in fact children and spouses of the very same workers the policy is purportedly meant to benefit.
He also dismissed the racism allegations being levelled against Mr Wenham, saying, âThat is absolute rubbish . . . nothing can be further from the truth.
âWe are Zimbabweans and we behave professionally.â
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