Scores of former workers at Shabanie-Mashaba Mines have been ordered by the mine management to vacate company houses they have been occupying in the Midlands town of Zvishavane over the years and after the liquidation of the firm a couple of years ago.
The former workers have vowed to stay put saying they are each owed thousands of dollars in salary arrears and pensions.
The workers were on Monday served with 48-hour eviction notices and are supposed to have vacated the company houses by the end of day Wednesday.
Chairman Hilton Phiri of the Shabanie Mine Ex-Workers’ Association told VOA the former workers are fighting the eviction as the company still owes them a lot of money in unpaid wages as well as pensions.
"At the moment there are about 77 workers who are facing eviction. Twenty workers have been served with notices and we are contesting these evictions.The workers want the company to first pay our outstanding wages and pensions which they were deducting from our wages without remitting them to the relevant pension funds," said Phiri.
The former workers are being represented by attorney Godfrey Mutseyakwa of Danziger and Partners.
They say managers at Shabanie Mashava Mine have told them that they are supposed to have been paying rent from the time the company was placed under judicial management even if they were not getting paid.
Indications are that the company is likely to garnish workers’ salaries to settle rent arrears when it finally pays them outstanding wages running into millions of dollars.
Former Shabanie Mine worker, Rumbidzai Mupandawana, who is an artisan, said they will fight to the bitter end to block the evictions.
Shabanie-Mashaba Mine was once owned by businessman Mutumwa Mawere before it was placed under curatorship and later taken over by government amid allegations that Mawere had externalized foreign currency.
The company is now under the state-controlled Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC).
Shabanie-Mashaba Mines was once a successful entity but later fell on hard times leaving thousands of workers jobless. The firm was Zimbabwe's sole producer of asbestos.
Former Zvishavane council chairman, Alluwis Zhou, who is also a former employee of Shabanie Mine, says it is sad that they are being evicted from the only place they have always regarded as their only home.
Zhou said, "Some of the people like my father worked for Shabanie Mine for 37 years. I know of others who worked for over 40 years meaning that they spent the better part of their lives working for the company.
"Inspite of such service they have nothing to show for it. And yet Shabanie Mine is now telling such people to vacate the houses they were living in. This isn’t how companies should treat workers because it’s inhumane"
Zhou also said in election campaigns during the run-up to July 31 polls, senior Zanu PF party members, including former Midlands governor Cephas Msipa, told Shabanie-Mashaba Mine workers that they will take over the mine houses under the country’s controversial black economic empowerment programme.
The law compels foreign-owned companies to transfer majority shares to local people.
VOA was unable get a comment from Msipa and Shabanie-Mashaba Mine company management as they were said to be busy attending several meetings.
Reports said the High Court in Bulawayo late Wednesday granted an order barring the eviction of the workers.