SW Radio Africa (London)

8 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Renco Mine Shuts Down As Ownership Fight Drags On

The fight for control of the Renco Mine in the Masvingo province has led to the closure of the mine, with government leaders being urged to intervene.

The RioZim run mine has been the site of a labour dispute for several weeks, a dispute that turned political when ZANU PF MP Irvine Dzingirai took over as the manager. He had threatened staff that they had to work under him or face dismissal. He also threatened RioZim directors.

This was revealed by RioZim in a statement last week, which also implicated Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi as the instigator of the ZANU PF take over.

"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.

The mining firm has since approached the High Court in a bid to secure their rights to their mine, but the court on Wednesday reserved judgement on the matter, leaving the mine in limbo. Renco Mine manager Cyprian Kachisa reportedly told the NewsDay newspaper on Thursday that they had ceased all operations and ordered the 2,000 workers to go back home until the issue had been resolved.

The MDC-T's spokesperson for Masvingo Province, Harrison Mudzuri, told SW Radio Africa that this situation is further damaging Zimbabwe's abilities to repair its economy by encouraging new investments.

"We are disturbed by these developments and we feel sorry for the workers. A prolonged shut down of the mine will cause serious problems for employees, for the mine, for Zimbabwe's future. We call on the leaders in government to intervene and solve this crisis," Mudzuri said.

Minister 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."

Mzembi has also threatened to sue RioZim for 'defamation', revealing that he was challenged on the Renco Mine situation during a meeting with the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Secretariat. Zimbabwe is set to host a UNTWO meeting in Victoria Falls in August, and Mzembi has been busy trying to convince the world body that there will be no problems.

He revealed in an affidavit filed at the High Court this week that the UNWTO Secretariat questioned him on the Renco situation while he was with them in Spain last week. The group is understood to have asked why the Minister was taking over the mine, after media reports on the situation surfaced.

This caused Mzembi to lash out in anger, saying in his court affidavit: "The allegations made against me are malicious, scandalous and defamatory."

He added: "They are intended to insult me in my personal capacity, ZANU PF, the government and people in my constituency who voted for me that I am a wrong minister who has no respect for rule of law."

SW Radio Africa was unable to contact RioZim on Friday. Minister Mzembi's phone also went unanswered.

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