By Chipo Musoko, HARARE, May 11 (The Source) – Workers at Mbada Diamonds, one of Zimbabwe’s largest miners, have downed tools in protest against going for eight months with no pay and to demand better working conditions, The Source has established.
Mbada, a joint venture between South Africa’s New Reclamation Group-owned Grandwell Holdings and the Zimbabwe government’s mining investment vehicle Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, has branded the action illegal and threatened to dismiss the workers.
Last year, the company laid off hundreds of workers and slashed salaries by half as part of cost cutting initiatives.
Mbada, along with at least five other Marange diamond miners, were engaged in low-cost open cast operations since around 2009 but have since announced the exhaustion of shallow-lying alluvial deposits and would now require expensive deep-ground mining to continue operating.
According to sources, over 300 workers downed tools on Friday demanding to be paid their outstanding salaries.
Mbada officials were not immediately available to comment on Monday.
“Management sent security staff (the police and army officers) to chase us away but they did not do so, after realizing that we were not demonstrating,” said one worker who declined to be named.
The workers, who earn around $250, said their salaries were slashed by 50 percent last June and this year they had only received between $200 and $400 each in April.
Sources said management addressed the workers on Friday and told them that their action was illegal and that the company would take disciplinary measures against them.
“We just wanted them to address us and tell us when they are going to pay us. We have gone for eight months without salaries. Some workers are being chased away from their lodgings for failing to pay rent. Our children have not collected their ‘O’ Level results because of (school fees) arrears, some workers have even lost properties due to debts,” said an employee.
Some security personnel were fired last December and replaced with new ones who have not been paid for four months and had since joined the other employees in the job boycott, the source added.
On Sunday, the employees said management came with the police and ordered them to leave the mine’s residential compound within an hour and were informed they would be called for disciplinary hearings on Monday but had yet to receive further communication.
Company buses took workers to their homes in Mutare, Harare and Bulawayo, they said.
Some former employees who have been demonstrating at the company’s head office for the past two months demanding their dues, have not also been paid.
Recently government announced that it would consolidate all diamond mines in Marange to curb leakages and corruption which are rampant in the sector.
Other miners in the Chiadzwa area include Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Company (DMC), Anjin and Jinan. The proposal includes Murowa Diamond Mine near Zvishavane owned by global resources giant, Rio Tinto plc.