Hwange’s can of worms opens

The mid-week suspension of Hwange Colliery Company’s managing director, Mr Thomas Makore, is likely to open a can of worms at the coal-producing company, which has been struggling to pay its workers for the past six years.

At the end of January, wives of Hwange employees went on a demonstration, camping outside the company’s general office, asking for the resignation of Mr Makore and a number of top executives.

The women, who are still camped outside the office, are also demanding the lump sum payment of what their husbands are owed in the six-year salary backlog.

Speaking to The Sunday Mail Society on Monday, the women, through their chairlady, Ms Clarice Ngoma, accused Hwange Colliery management of not prioritising their suffering.

“It is not that Hwange cannot afford to pay off the arrears, only that they don’t want. As we were in Harare last week for a demonstration, the company was appearing in court on allegations of paying the media some bribes. They would rather pay bribes to muzzle the media so that the plight of workers here is not publicised, and not their workers, how heartless,” charged Ms Ngoma.

Recently, the coal-producing company appeared in court in a bribery case, a case that prompted Mr Makore’s suspension as the company seeks lasting solutions to its woes.

Besides the six years workers have gone without pay, management is accused of poor decision-making and failing to turn the fortunes of the company around.

In 2016, the company commissioned mining equipment worth $32 million, all of which, hardly two years later, has broken down. The continuous miner, the lifeline of the colliery, is down most of the time. The coking oven, which produced coking coal (for which Hwange is renowned), has since closed down.

But just before his suspension, Mr Makore told The Sunday Mail Business that HCCL had seen production rising by more than 100 percent to 232 000 tonnes in the first quarter of the year due to “available and reliable equipment that has improved efficiencies in operations”.

Yet the salary backlog persists.

Among the litany of allegations by the workers, the tendering process at the colliery has been shrouded in secrecy and controversy.

Apart from the bribery allegations, Mr Makore is accused of cronyism and employing divide-and-rule tactics in running the company. The most vocal workers’ representatives were promoted overnight at the company, ostensibly to silence them.

Besides Mr Makore, the women are also demanding the resignation of the human resource executive, Mr Ray Munangwa, whom they allege has been packing the company with his cronies.

These are some of the issues written by the demonstrating women in their petition, which they presented to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development when they demonstrated in Harare recently.

Mrs Lillian Mangena, wife of Mr Mike Mangena, who has worked for the colliery company for over 25 years, said she joined the demonstration in solidarity with her husband.

“My husband, just like other Hwange workers, has been going to work religiously for the past six years without getting his due rewards. So instead of our husbands going on strike, which would paralyse the company, we as the wives resolved to demonstrate instead.

“Our children have just been turned away from school this week because of unpaid school fees. The $200 that the company, as part of the scheme of arrangement, is currently paying, is not enough. We want a lump sum so that we can plan our lives.”

Another demonstrating woman, Ms Thobekile Shoko, said Hwange Colliery recently ordered widows and pensioners out of the company’s houses, yet these people are owed thousands of dollars in back-pay.

“Honestly how can you order such old widows and pensioners out into the cold when you owe them? It just shows heartlessness by the company.”

No comment could be obtained from Hwange Colliery Company with the company’s public relations manager, Ms Rugare Dhobbie, saying the company’s board will issue a Press statement in due course.

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  • Kuzola

    The demonstrating women have said it all, all workers and ex-workers are suffering at Hwange Colliery due to extreme cruel treatment imposed by the inefficient and corrupt management mostly promoted and appointed on nepotism, so not just MD should go but MD and all his inefficient management cronies. To sum it all the suspended MD victimised most of the capable managerial employess and forced them out of Hwange Colliery somehow so as to appoint bootlickers, who are yes man and not able to make Hwange Colliery recover but are only there to bully workers and ex-workers using company resources.

    As the wives said the Scheme must be revisited and must be in such a way that those with less money have their arrears cleared in a shorter period not the current scenario where both, one who is owed 8 000$ and another owed 300 000$ are to be paid over a 36 months period that is nonsense. and a s such those who have got most of the scheme monies must expect to miss scheme payments in the future as those paid very little so far catchup also, that is a preferable scheme is equal division of available scheme monies to all owed per month such that scheme earnings increase as those with less arrears are cleared, clah.

    As for workers why is it some are getting their salaries when scheme monies are paid whilst the rest of the employees are not? The issue must be salary for all or no salary for all else fixed amount for all employees (eg 200$ for all employees per month )because now the salary is just for those appointed by the MD recently at the expense of long time serving members, all at the blessing of an MD picked workers representatives sic.

    As for house evictions as the women are saying no-one must be evicted against his will before full payment of owed monies and even current workers do support it because they know the suffering of the ex-workers most of whom were victims of MD’s purging of capable souls in preference of bootlickers. If the company needs houses then they should buy out the ex-employees through negotiation or putting an upfront lumpsum payment offer of arrears for those who want to evacuate houses eg. Up to 3500$ for semi detached house, 7500$ for high density, $15 000 medium density and $30 000 low density of which i am sure some individuals will take up willingly

    Else in capable hands Hwange Colliery has all the potential to be a profitable company employing many people as well as indirectly contributing to the nation’s prosperity by supporting a whole lot of coal-product consuming industries.

    Kuzola.

  • Emerald

    Bruce Chahwanda is the ZBC journalist allegedly caught red handed receiving $65,000 bribe. The Sunday Mail chooses not to mention it. Is it because this paper is worried about exposing one of their own? ED preaches zero tolerance to corruption. If Bruce is not convicted of corruption then ED’s is just talk and no action

  • K Shumba

    If you go back for a long time through this paper. We have been commenting that Thomas Makore was a thief misleading the nation but nobody bothered to consider nor follow up on the comments. This criminal came from SA to steal he is a mercenary of destruction brought in by Mutamangira and his G40 cabal to syphon money in support of Grace Mugabe’s terrible intentions.
    We are all celebrating his suspension as a nation and want to beg with the Board of Directors never to let him free but rather discipline him thoroughly through the Company Code of Conduct then hand him over to the law to take its course. He must get full long jail term as a precedence to those with intentions to abuse public funds. He deserves Hell with a big Coal Fire.