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Former Chrome Mine Workers Stranded in Mashonaland West

Zimbabwe Alloys allegedly promised to pay retrenced workers severance packages of up to $4,000 each.

Former Sutton Mine workers and their families near Mutorashanga in Mashonaland West region are now living from hand to mouth following the closure of the mine in 2009.

Most of them now survive on piece jobs in surrounding farms and gold mines run by indigenous business people in the Mapinga area.

To make matters worse, the retrenched workers are still paying their former employer, Zimbabwe Alloys, rentals ranging from $10 to $40 per month.

Middle-aged Stewart Phiri, who works in local farms, says Zimbabwe Alloys promised to pay them retrenchment packages of up to $4,000 each.

Phiri says it is very difficult to make a living in a poverty-stricken mine compound where they are staying because most people have no money. Although Phiri is surviving on piece jobs, he is sometimes not paid by his employer due to financial difficulties.

Another former chrome miner, Langton Nyakwenda, who is now doing all sorts of odd jobs to make a living, says their problems emanate from what he calls an unworkable black empowerment program, which compels foreign-owned businesses to transfer majority stakes to local people.

Nyakwenda adds that the closure of the mine and non-payment of terminal benefits has impacted negatively on the education of their children.

He says very few local people can now afford to pay school fees for their children.

Nyamwanda believes that their situation has been worsened by politicians who once told them to stop paying school fees and then made a u-turn soon after the 2013 general elections.

Mashonaland West Affirmative Action Group official, Thembelani Hlupheko, says the government should create an enabling operating environment for the mining companies, which normally support thousands of families in Zimbabwe.

He says the government needs to probe the closure of the mine as there are some indications that it shut down due to corruption.

Zimbabwe Alloys representative at the mine, Christopher Watadza, says his company will pay the benefits of former workers once it gets money from their creditors.

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