SW Radio Africa (London)

24 May 2012

Zimbabwe: Railway Workers Unpaid for 6 Months

Workers at Zimbabwe's national railway company have made desperate appeals to Transport and Communications Minister Nicholas Goche to appoint a board of directors, so that they can receive wages after nearly six months.

The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) is struggling with a financial crisis that has left workers unpaid for most of this year, with management claiming there is no money. A decision on the outstanding salaries can only be made once a new board is appointed.

"I talked to the Transport Minister Nicholas Goche sometime last week and he said there will be a board very soon," SW Radio Africa correspondent Lionel Saungweme said, referring to Goche's appearance at the ICT Conference in Bulawayo last week.

The ailing parastatal is being run by the Retired Air Commodore Mike Karakadzai, who as chairman and General Manager also employs many former military officials and war vets who were allegedly hired because of their affiliation with ZANU PF.

Just last week in parliament Karakadzai and his former military colleagues were accused of destroying the NRZ through mismanagement and corruption, in the same way other parastatals have been run down by former military chefs.

Saungweme said the allegations have merit. "In November and December management ensured that perks like school fees for their children was actually paid in advance. The workers in lower grades did not even get salaries," Saungweme explained.

Railways workers went on strike a month before the Christmas holidays last year, demanding their outstanding salaries. But they were ordered back to work by government, with threats that those who did not comply risked losing their jobs.

NRZ workers can only hope the Transport Minister appoints a board of directors by the end of the week, so that a decision on their salaries can finally be made. It is a mystery just how they have managed to stay at their jobs without salaries for nearly six months.

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