10 February 2014

Zimbabwe: Court Orders Grace Mugabe's Son to Pay Workers

First Lady Grace Mugabe's son, Russell Goreraza, has been ordered to pay workers at Tolrose Mine in Kadoma more than $340,000 in salaries arrears.

The order also empowers the deputy sheriff to attach property at the mine to raise funds to pay the 366 workers, if Goreraza does not oblige.

The gold-rich mine is at the centre of an ownership tussle after Grace's son controversially acquired a stake in the mine in October last year, before forcing out co-owner Jameson Rushwaya.

Some workers have not been paid since 2011 due to wrangles between Rushwaya and his ex-business partner Patterson Timba, who sold his stake to Goreraza.

Goreraza, who installed himself as sole authority at the mine, has allegedly been abusing and assaulting workers using his henchmen who are permanently stationed at the mine, the workers say.

Earlier last month the workers went on strike to protest their withheld salaries and also sought court intervention after attempts to negotiate with the employer failed.

On January 24th the High Court ordered Goreraza to pay his workers their outstanding salaries, totalling $339,782.

Tinashe Mugwira, president of the National Mine Workers' Union of Zimbabwe, who took the matter to court on behalf of Tolrose workers, said they are relieved.

"We are pleased that this will go some way to alleviate the suffering of the workers and their families who have been left destitute as a result. At least now they stand to get something," Mugwira told SW Radio Africa on Monday.

"The $340,000 is just part of what the employees are owed. Another case involving $150,000 which has since accumulated is before the arbitrator," he added.

Goreraza recently refused a Labour Court directive to pay up, claiming that he 'is above the law', forcing the workers' lawyer to approach the High Court.

"After the employer failed to honour an earlier order from the arbitration process, we registered the arbitral order with the High Court," lawyer Alec Muchadehama said Monday.

"This enables us to send the deputy sheriff to attach the property at the mine, and we are working on that at the moment," Muchadehama told SW Radio Africa.

Asked what the workers would do if Goreraza refuses to comply or cooperate with the deputy sheriff, given his political connections, Muchadehama said this was unlikely.

"But should that happen, we will expect the police to assist and the law to take its course," Muchadehama said.

The lawyer said it was regrettable that the workers have been forced to resort to the courts, when the matter could have been amicably solved through negotiations.

Workers representative Mugwira said Tolrose workers will be happier if the mine is sold to new owners "because problems will continue if the current administration remains in charge."

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