Work at Masvingo’s biggest gold mine was nearly disrupted Monday as villagers and workers' wives blocked the entrance, singing songs, chanting Zanu-PF party slogans and waving placards demanding that employees be paid bonuses and better wages.
The workers congregated at the mine for the third time in three weeks to demand better working conditions.
Workers’ spokesman Daniel Matumba told VOA that employees agreed with mine authorities that no gold would be taken away from the mine until all grievances are addressed.d.
When rumors circulated Tuesday that about 33 kilograms of gold was to be airlifted to Harare, local villagers marched to the mine. They allegedly chased away the mine manager Mr, Suprene Kachisa before blocking workers from entering the mine.
When asked for comment, mine manager Kachisa on Tuesday refused to comment on the developments at the mine.
Soon, police in riot gear, some armed with AK 47 assault rifles, descended on the mine and dispersed the angry crowd. The police said they dispersed the crowd because the villagers wanted to loot the mined gold.
Mr. Matumba said to avoid further clashes, the mine should close down until the parties can settle their dispute.
Some of the mine workers said that they came to the mine to seek an audience with mine management on the gold that was being taken away from the mine.
Worker Brine Mazire said he felt he now had no option but to petition President Robert Mugabe and Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri over the issue, complaining that some workers earn as little $100 a month.
Some villagers said they had sought the assistance of Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi because he is the area’s Member of Parliament and were surprised to learn that Minister Mzembi had been taken to court by the mine authorities.
They said they used to approach the late Masvingo South legislator and national hero, Eddison Zvobgo, whenever they had problems.
Problems at the mine started last month when the villagers and wives of mine workers staged a demonstration to demand better working conditions.
Media reports said the demonstrators were mobilized by Mr. Mzembi and Chivi South legislator Irwin Dzingirai, who at one time declared that they had taken over the mine.
The High Court has since ordered Mzembi and Dzingirai to stop interfering with activities at the mine.
But President Robert Mugabe has urged communities to grab shares in foreign companies operating in their respective areas, saying now is the time for black Zimbabweans to claim their stake in foreign owned companies.