Workers abused in Grace’s backyard


A CHINESE company Afec, contracted to build a secondary school at Grace Mugabe’s orphanage in Mazowe, is allegedly abusing its Zimbabwean workers in President Robert Mugabe’s own backyard, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.

Elias Mambo

One of the locals who occasionally works for the Chinese and requested anonymity said: “We are asked to come to work daily. There is no contract signed, so one just works until 6pm then you get a daily wage of US$7. If you want to come back the following morning then you have to wake up early before new employees for the day are recruited — before 6am when work starts.”

Grace is currently building a secondary school at her orphanage following the completion of a primary school.

“Construction commenced last December and by end of this year the school should be complete.”

Meanwhile, employees at Sino-Zimbabwe Cement have also accused the company of exploitive labour practices following its new policy of increased working hours without a corresponding rise in pay.

Sino-Zim Cement is a joint venture between the Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe and China Building Materials Corporation, which started operating in 2001. It employs over 300 workers, but since December last year, the company has been trying to lay off 100 employees.

Sino-Zim sources said the company is anxious to retrench but has failed to agree on severance packages, hence its decision to increase working hours allegedly to frustrate employees into resigning.

“We were given letters in December stating that we had been shortlisted for retrenchment, but we could not agree on the proposed severance packages,” said a worker at the cement maker. “The company wants to pay us one month’s salary for each year served and we want three months’ salary for each year.

“After negotiations hit a brick-wall management just changed the working hours such that a person works from 6am to 6pm for no additional overtime pay.”

Sino-Zim cement increased its production capacity from 700 to 1 200 tonnes per day in December following the installation of a new plant. Employees however said the increase in production means more working hours, but no salary increment.

Efforts to get a comment from Sino-Zim management were not successful as their mobile phones went unanswered. Extensive research by international organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Global Witness show that since its mining venture began in Zimbabwe in 2009, a litany of abuses have also characterised Anjin’s operations, another Zimbabwe-China joint venture.

According to the Global Witness report, employees were made to work well over normal working hours with the hope of increasing productivity.
Efforts to get comment from Sino-Zim were fruitless as their line was repeatedly cut as soon as the Independent reporter identified himself.

2 thoughts on “Workers abused in Grace’s backyard”

  1. seems the chinese are untouchables and they do what they want. how do u expect someone to survive on $7 a day and the problem is the jobs are not secure, they need to give the workers short-term contracts for like 3 months

  2. makwinja says:

    The problem with unbalanced reporting is that you do not get the whole truth. The issues raised in the report are covered by S12 of the Labour Act. An employer is not obliged to enter into a written contract of employment with an employee. Under “casual worker” it is possible to employ some one for one day. However, if the employment exceeds six weeks within 4 consecutive months the employee is deemed to have been engaged permanently by the employer. The employer is required to notify an employee in writing of certain things, whether the employee is employed for one day. So if the construction company is not communicating such things in writing to employees then the persons concerned may approach labour officers in Bindura.

    As for Sino Cement employees, employees are required to work for 81/2 working hours, excluding lunch time a day, with anything else being paid as overtime. This however does not apply to shift workers. For shift workers, they can work for up to 12 hours a day subject to 421/2 hours per week, and 170 per month. So the Sino Cement guys must indicate whether they are shift workers or not. If they are not they can easily rely on the provisions of the Labour Act to get recourse.

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