KWEKWE: Former employees of Kwekwe based Homestake Mining and Technical Services (Pvt) Ltd which owned Tiger Reef Mine are accusing their former employer of not paying their gratuities following the acquisition of the mine by Kuvimba Mining House.
The Tiger Reef Mine which was owned by Lee W. John stopped operations nearly a decade ago and retrenched 400 of its employees.
Subsequently, the mine was placed under judicial management before the eventual takeover by Kuvimba Mining House, a mining concession that belongs to President Emmerson Mnangagwa ally Kudakwashe Tagwireyi.
However, former employees accused their employer of terminating contracts without paying out gratuities of varying amounts for the affected individuals.
“I served Tiger Reef for over 20 years, and I am very saddened that the company eventually closed without paying my gratuities. All efforts to engage the former owner Lee John have been in vain,” a former employee Gaisi Tembo said in an interview and claimed he is owed at least US$1000 by the company.
Another former employee, Ganizani Kapito said Tiger Reef closed under acrimonious circumstances leaving former workers in a lurch.
“Up to date we still don’t understand why Lee John decided to close the mine. The mine closed under suspicious circumstances. However, that is an administrative issue and not much of our concern. What I just want from the former owner is for him to pay my outstanding gratuities so that I can go back to my home country Malawi,” he said.
However, former employer Lee Johns told CommuTalk that all salary arrears have been cleared.
“The company was not closed and was sold as a going concern and handed over to new owners Kavimba in January 2021. I refer you to the NEC for proof that all retrenchments were paid higher than the statutory requirement and most employees got a stand at Tiger Reef,” Lee John said after inquiries.
The new mine owners Kuvimba Mining House indicated that they are not privy to any outstanding salary arrears issues with the former employer.
“We are not privy to the agreement between former Tiger Reef and the previous owners. We acquired Tiger Reef alongside a portfolio of other assets. At the time of acquisition, Tiger Reef had no employees except for skeletal security staff and was under care and maintenance. That has remained the case,” Kuvimba CEO Simba Chinyemba said.
Though Lee John insisted that former employees were given some residential stands investigations, however, revealed that former employees were evicted from their premises.
Homestake company Lawyer Valentine Mutatu confirmed the evictions.
“There are three types of people who are in the occupation of those houses,” Mutatu said in an interview.
He explained that the first group of those evicted is for the people who were never employees of the company and are tenants whom he said had failed to pay their monthly rentals, “so they are being evicted on those bases.”
Mutatu added that another group is that of the former employees of the company and were staying in those houses as employees and upon the termination of their contracts they became tenants and were failing to pay rentals.
Meanwhile, another group was of those recently terminated. As part of their retrenchment packages, they were given a choice to take the houses or other offers as they were on salary arrears.
“I may not be specific on how many are facing evictions and who are they but what I know is, we have court orders to evict,” he said.
He further explained that some of the affected individuals are now contesting the evictions in courts arguing that they were not given enough time.
“However, those arguments have been thrown away by the courts and evictions are going to continue as per judgment from the courts. We started the evictions at the end of March last year. However, we discovered that the tenants there don’t want to move for one reason or another,” he said.
Documents in possession of this publication indicated that the former employees were given the notice to vacate the company accommodation in late February 2020.
“Our records indicated that you were fully paid your outstanding terminal benefits. You are hereby given 3 months’ notice with the effect from 1 March 2020 to the 31st of March 2020 to vacate. A premises inspection should be done day before a vacation date,” acting Human Resources Manager Ephert Lungu said in one of the letters written to a former employee.
Information gathered by this publication indicates that some of the former employees are of Malawian, Zambian, and Mozambican descent.
In September 2021 the company in further correspondence to the employees gave some final notices to vacate company accommodation following the employee retrenchment from Homestake Mining and Technical Services (Pvt) Ltd in February 2017.
“Notice is hereby given in terms of the retrenchment conditions for you to vacate company accommodation. Our records indicate that you were fully paid your outstanding formal benefits on 14 January 2020.
“In addition, to the above you were served with a letter on 27th February 2020, giving you 3 months’ notice effective 1st March 2020 to 31st May 2020 to vacate the company house. The company took into consideration the Covid-19 pandemic and let you stay until the situation improved,” acting Human Resources Manager Ephert Lungu said to an employee in a letter gleaned by this publication.
The company indicated that last year seeing an improvement in the Covid-19 situation the former employees were then given up to the 1st of October 2020 to vacate the company premises.
The evictions started in March last year and had to be briefly stopped after a court application after ex-workers contested the evictions.
Some ex-workers and tenants, however, lost the cases at Kwekwe Magistrate courts after the court gave the green light for the evictions to continue while some are still contesting the matter before the courts.
“I don’t know where the company expects us to go considering they are owing us some money. I have been with the company for 40 years since I came to this country from Malawi. I gave my all to the company only to be thrown out like this.
“It’s incorrect for the company to say they settled our terminal benefits because as far as I am concerned the company is owing me and I am going to continue contesting the issue in the courts,” said another former employee, Biggy Phiri.
Meanwhile, the mine is currently under care and maintenance.
Judicial Manager Francis Chingozho confirmed that the company had been placed under judicial management.
“Please advise the former employees that all matters to do with Homestake are now under the control of the judicial manager. When the company was placed under judicial management it meant that the board was relieved of its powers to run the company is now vested with the judicial management. This means that the shareholders and the Board, including Lee John cannot make any decisions on behalf of the company as doing so will be in contempt of the company,” Chingozho said.