By Matabeleland North Correspondent
Hwange: Under fire coal producer Makomo Resources has reportedly gone into temporary shutdown after about 400 workers downed tools following a disagreement with the employer over unpaid two-months’ salaries.
Workers were reportedly last paid in October as the country’s biggest coal producer struggles to pay its employees.
The lowest paid worker earns about Z$20 000 per month.
Makomo Resources, located on the outskirts of Hwange town, produces about 300 000 tonnes of coal per month, close to 100 000 tonnes higher than Hwange Colliery Company which produces about 200 000 tonnes per month.
According to a letter of complaint drafted by workers and seen by this publication, about 400 workers reportedly staged a sit-in on Tuesday after the company decided to pay each between 30 and 50 percent of their monthly salaries without any explanation being given.
Workers got to their stations at the mine and just sat before going to the canteen for lunch and later supper.
General manager Kuda Nyabonda reportedly chased everyone away from the premises telling them they had been fired.
The determined workers have approached Chief Nekatambe in whose area the mine is located and a Labour officer to register their concerns.
A follow up with some workers who spoke on condition of anonymity showed that employees were not happy with the way management has been handling the matter.
“We only wanted clarification because they had promised to give us October salaries but on Monday people were surprised to see about 30 and 50 percent of their salaries reflecting on their accounts. We mobilised each other for a meeting where we hoped to raise our concerns to management and possibly get an explanation.
“The general manager Kuda Nyabonda was not there and Simba Dirori who was representing him refused to meet workers,” said an employee on condition of anonymity.
Workers gathered at the gate before Nyabonda allegedly arrived and chased them away.
“People went home and expected that the workers committee was going to be invited for negotiations, but nothing happened. In the morning, people went to pick up points but there was no company transport to carry them,” said another work.
The workers said they tried several times to seek audience with management who were ignoring their calls.
“Only expatriates form South Africa and students are working while everyone is still home. We didn’t want to go on strike but only wanted clarification on why they paid us part salary and when the balance would come but the company had not been willing to meet us. The management has been threatening to dismiss everyone and not give them outstanding salaries.
“They finally agreed to meet us Wednesday when they told us to go home saying the mine had shut down and verbally terminated our contracts. They said we should not come back until there is money, adding that they were tired of working with unhappy workers.
“They said once the mine starts making money, they will call people back starting with the less problematic ones. We have informed Chief Nekatamba and approached labour officers seeking advice,” said one of the workers.
Efforts to get in touch with Nyabonda were fruitless as his phone was either continuously ringing or unreachable.
Makomo sells the bulk of its Power coal to Zesa power station in Hwange and Munyati in Kwekwe.
The mine also exports to DRC and Zambia.
Coking coal is sold to Chinese companies for coke smelting.