5 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Riozim, Mzembi On Collision Course After Zanu-PF Takeover of Renco Mine

Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi and the owners of Renco mine in Masvingo are on a collision course, after the ZANU PF minister allegedly instigated the takeover of the mine.

Last month ZANU PF's Chivi South MP, Irvine Dzingirai, declared he was the new manager of the mine, which has been the site of a labour dispute for several weeks. Production there had ceased after workers' wives and local villagers barricaded the main gate, demanding an improvement in workers' conditions and community assistance projects.

Renco owners RioZim have now gone to the High Court to try and retain their legal rights to the mine, accusing Mzembi of instigating the takeover.

"Minister Mzembi arrived at the mine... He called a public meeting and announced that RioZim had not complied with the indigenisation obligations of the country and hence they were taking over Renco," RioZim said in a statement last week.

It said the minister had appointed Dzingirai as the general manager and directed all staff to work under him. The mining firm added that the MP was now using threats and intimidation to bar RioZim directors and management from the mine.

Mzembi has denied RioZim's accusations, saying he only became involved with the mine when Renco workers lobbied him, as their local MP, to intervene in a pay dispute.

Criticising the RioZim statements he said: "That's political slander. I'm surprised by their statement, which seeks to politicise what is a dispute between them and their workers," he told Reuters.

He has since retaliated, publicly accusing RioZim of offering him a US$100,000 bribe. He was quoted by the state run Herald newspaper as saying: "They tried to buy me out of this case, with a US$100 000 brown envelope which I turned down, preferring to advance community and worker issues which they have blatantly violated over the past 40 years."

"I am not that cheap, neither is my constituency worth so little, after four decades of gross neglect and abuse. They must try someone else. I will not be bought with filthy lucre to sell an entire constituency's aspirations and dreams about development which they clearly see being implemented more responsibly by other corporates like Zimplats and Unki in areas where they are operating," Mzembi said.

The MDC-T spokesperson for Masvingo province, Harrison Mudzuri, said that ZANU PF has from day one tried to openly politicise the labour dispute at the mine, in order to take it over.

"Dzingirai is trying to threaten workers to either join ZANU PF or they will be fired. We are concerned because this is a labour dispute that is being politicised by ZANU PF," Mudzuri told SW Radio Africa.

The MDC-T spokesperson said ZANU PF is trying to use "political muscle to make sure no one intervenes," while insisting they are taking over under the country's indigenisation laws.

Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has since been quoted by the NewsDay newspaper as saying this is "irrational" and that he will be investigating the Renco situation.

"We want law and order in this country and we don't want indigenisation to be dragged into the mud," Kasukuwere reportedly said.

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