WORKERS at Hwange Colliery have accused management of using a US$20 million bank loan to buy top-of-the-range cars for managers instead of recapitalising the parastatal, as strikes over non-payment of wages continue.
Employees who say they have endured more than five months without salaries allege the firm borrowed US$20 million claiming it was for recapitalisation, but the money was diverted to buy luxury vehicles and issue personal loans to management.
Some of the luxury vehicles purchased for managers include Toyota Prados and top-of-the-range double cab trucks, the workers allege.
They also allege that after the firm sub-contracted a South African company to computerise its systems, about 120 workers were laid off and were supposed to receive retrenchment packages from the US$20 million loan, but to date none of them has received the money. Instead, they are still on the payroll.
However, Hwange Colliery spokesperson Burzil Dube denied the company borrowed money to pay out retrenchment packages.
“The company didn’t borrow money for retrenchment packages,” he said, but was silent on allegations of misappropriation of the US$20 million loan.
When probed further Dube said: “The comment covers everything.”
Part of the recapitalisation programme is said to have involved the servicing of two continuous miner machines which were sent to South Africa for repairs but were never returned after Hwange Colliery failed to pay for the spare parts.
The workers said after the two critical machines broke down, the engineers sent to South Africa to oversee the repair of the machines also took advantage of the chaos at the parastatal to pocket money meant for servicing the machines.
They also alleged that the machines were now mere shells after thieves stripped them of parts.
Despite the numerous challenges faced by Hwange Colliery, the firm recorded a US$3,1 million net profit in December 2012.
The company, which earlier this year suspended more than 500 employees who had gone on strike in April demanding outstanding salaries, last week suspended more employees who took part in a sit-in two weeks ago, demanding their salaries as labour unrest continues. The workers’ wives, who were demonstrating against non-payment of salaries, were beaten up by riot police.
“You are hereby advised that for your participation in the illegal collective job action, you are temporarily laid off from your workplace …,” reads part of the letter sent out to workers who were involved in the strike.