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Zanu PF Victory Scares Workers as Bata Company 'Shuts Down'

Bata Shoe Company temporary shut down has scared workers and investors
With Zanu PF’s victory in last week's elections throwing the country into economic uncertainty, workers at Gweru’s Bata Shoe Company fear a permanent closure of the firm after last week’s routine shutdown.

Some Bata workers say they are skeptical about the company’s future following the elections.

They told VOA Studio 7 they were told that Friday’s closure was a result of a rescheduling of the company’s annual shutdown but they fear the company might never re-open.

One worker, who requested anonymity, said workers are anxious because the shutdown was imposed by management and the workers were not given enough leave pay.

The worker said, “Management noted that the company’s retail shops are fully stocked at the moment and as a result they felt that it would be prudent for the company to shut down now instead of doing so in December as usual. This decision was taken without the agreement of the workers.

“They said they would give us more leave days when we shut down again in December. We were only given two weeks’ wages for a month’s shutdown and we are very worried.”

Sources said Louis Pinto, Bata’s managing director, issued an internal memorandum at the beginning of July notifying workers that the company was adjusting its annual shutdown into two phases owing to a number of reasons, including operational difficulties.

Another worker, who also asked for anonymity, said in more the than 30 years that he has worked for Bata, the company has never rescheduled its annual shutdown, adding the workers’ anxiety over the company’s future stems from the timing of the break which they think has to do with the elections.

“It looks like this has something to do with politics because the announcement of the shutdown came just before the elections. We strongly suspect that management was waiting to see the outcome of the elections and with the elections having gone Zanu PF’s way we are no longer certain that the company will reopen on in September as promised. This has never happened in all the years that I have worked for Bata,” said the worker.

Although he agreed that workers are concerned about their future, a workers’ representative, who also refused to be identified, said management consulted them before reaching its decision to temporarily shut down the firm.

Despite not operating at full capacity, Bata is one of the few big companies in Gweru that remains operational. The company employs 1,500 workers.

Elsewhere, a woman who was a council candidate for the MDC-T in Mberengwa North’s Ward 36 has fled her home in the constituency’s Neta resettlement following severe threats from some war veterans.

Alice Ncube, who fled her home with her three young children, is temporarily staying with relatives in Gweru after the war veterans, who include Nkosilathi Dube, Goka Ndlovu and Newman Mabika reportedly told her that she could not stay in the area as she is an MDC-T supporter.

Ncube said the MDC-T leadership in the area reported the matter to Mberengwa police and local representatives of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC).

Studio 7 failed to get a comment from the police. Local Zanu PF leaders were also unavailable for comment.

Since the announcement of election results last week, the MDC-T has alleged that its supporters across the country have been targeted for victimization but Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo has refuted these claims.