Low salaries for Mine Workers
By Wongai Zhangazha
It’s a very quiet morning in the dusty town of Zvishavane. The sky is grey and a cold wind is blowing as the town welcomes the winter season which promises to be a very cold one.
One would be forgiven for mistaking the once-active mine town for the ghost towns shown in cowboy movies, as almost everything seems to be in shambles.
In one of the small mine houses is 35-year-old Nhamo Mbiri, who has braved the cold weather as he prepares to go to work.
Mbiri works at Shabanie mine -an asbestos mine which was put under administration in 2004 after the state accused its owner Mutumwa Mawere of externalising huge sums of foreign currency. Mawere, a Zimbabwe-born South African citizen is still battling to regain his business empire expropriated by government.
Mbiri does not have much of a choice as he puts on his clothes. He is not happy about his salary and working conditions. But he does not know what to do. He fears that if he does not go to work as a way of protest he might be thrown out of the house he lives in.
An attempt to protest against the working conditions and wage disputes in 2009 saw police firing shots at more than 1000 workers during a peaceful demonstration against unpaid wages. The matter is before the courts.
The plight of mine workers has been a concern and during a parliamentary session in February, Masvingo urban Member of Parliament Tongai Matutu asked Minister of Mines Obert Mpofu whether he was aware that an estimated 3 000 workers had not been receiving salaries over the past six months.
To which the minister replied that the ministry had no direct responsibility to the administration that was put in place on those mines.
Due to the hardships they face, specifically low wages and unpaid salaries, most mine workers have been surviving on handouts which included mealie-meal, cooking oil, beans and corn, from international food relief agency, The World Food Programme.
In May the Associated Mine Workers Union (AMWUZ) of Zimbabwe, with a membership of 25 000 mine workers, mobilised its workers to go on strike protesting against the low wages.
AMWUZ were demanding a minimum wage of $US496, up from US$120.
The strike was later called off after AMWUZ president said they had to end it to pave way for a court action.
- Find out more about Social Security in Zimbabwe.