SW Radio Africa (London)

Zimbabwe: Gaths Mine Workers On Strike

Eight hundred workers at Gaths Asbestos Mine in Mashava were this week reported to be on strike over six months' outstanding salaries, the Daily News reported Thursday.

The report said workers downed tools and took to the streets Monday following reports that the management had embezzled funds meant to pay their outstanding salaries.

According to the paper, the workers claimed that the government released $500, 000 as part of their salaries and allowances in December but that money has yet to reach them.

The $500,000 was meant to be shared between three Shabanie Mashava Mines - Gaths, Shabanie and Temeria - but only a 'combined $200,000' was disbursed to the mines, the workers claimed.

As that was not enough to pay the salaries and allowances at the three mines angry workers at Gaths mine took to the streets. According to the report drum beating and placard waving miners invaded the manager's office demanding their payment. They were finally dispersed by the police as the strike entered its third day Wednesday.

The report quoted Gaths Mine workers committee chairperson, Howard Chivasa, saying they were in meetings with management and government officials, including those from the President's office.

An unnamed worker said since the mines were taken away from the previous owner they have only been getting allowances and that stopped six months ago.

Government took over SMM 10 years ago after its owner Mutumwa Mawere was declared insolvent. The South African-based businessman has been fighting to regain his companies since. In October last year he filed an application at the Constitutional Court seeking to repossess several of his businesses, including SMM.

Mawere's phone remained unanswered for the whole of Friday while the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions said they had no information on the strike.

About 6,000 SMM workers are said to have lost their jobs since the company's take over by the government. Most of them are said to have turned to gold panning and prostitution as Mashava deteriorated into a ghost town.

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