By Judith Sibanda
More than 2 000 spouses of Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) employees are planning to stage protests the struggling coal miner which has reportedly gone for months without paying employee salaries.
Troubled HCCL has gone for two months without paying its employees, despite being put under administration in October last year, amid promises of a quick turnaround.
The protestors’ chairperson Thobekile Shoko said they were going to camp at the company’s premises until their grievances are heard.
“We signed a scheme of arrangement after months of protests at the gate and we had agreed with the management that they were going to pay our husbands and widows $200 each month on top of salaries and that only happened in May last year until October,” Shoko said.
“We are more than 2 000 and our children are starving and we cannot afford to pay school fees. Our husbands go to work every day and for the past six years, they have not received their proper salaries. The company has not paid March salaries yet they are expected to report for work under harsh conditions, so we are finalising our meetings and we will go back to the streets because we also want their salaries to be cross rated.”
One of the spouces, Mary Dube said the government’s intervention to reconstruct the company did not have any benefit to the workers.
“Such frustrations forced us to march to the company offices in 2013. I was badly injured in the process as police beat us severely. I lost consciousness and spent months in hospital where l was given ten stitches without an X-ray test being conducted.
“The police officers were beating us using batons and fired teargas to disburse us. They forced other women to roll on a railway line in the scorching heat while beating them. It is the same case with last year’s protest in January up to May but instead we are taken to court for sitting by the gate demanding our husband’s salaries so even if they invest in the mine, no salary will ever come. We are arranging to protest again for the third time, even though they will victimise us, the government has nothing for us.”
The widow of a former HCCL employee, 69-year-old Mirriam Munkuli from Number 3 suburb said she has been struggling to put food on the table and her situation has been aggravated by her leg injury after stepping on hot charcoal negligently disposed by the company.
Her husband died after spinal complications.
“Since my husband died in 2010 life has been extremely hard for me. I have no one to look after me. Two of our children have passed away and I currently reside with my grandson, who has dropped out of school.
Another widow from Makwika village, Bibi Chingulu (46), a mother of four also narrated her plight adding that she lost hope of receiving her husband’s benefits.
“He was an assistant engineer in the department of Processing. Since his death in 2013, I am victimised, told to vacate the company house with my minor children.
“Whenever I go to their offices to present my case, they ill-treat me and force me to leave their offices arguing that they paid all the benefits,”
“I never signed anything nor was I ever consulted. Due to poverty, one of my sons ended up quitting schools to be a bus conductor while the other one who finished his form 4 in 2015 has been seated at home because I have no money to pay school fees in order to get his results.”
When asked for a comment the HCCL spokesperson Rugare Dobhie referred this publication to a statement on a recent audit report on the operations of the giant miner.