GWERU — Poverty-stricken Essar (formerly Ziscosteel) workers have accused First Lady Grace Mugabe of falsely claiming that Zanu PF had intervened and enabled them to receive their outstanding salaries.
REPORT BY BLESSED MHLANGA
The workers said contrary to the First Lady’s claims, they have only received $40 each over the past 25 months.
Mugabe told a rally addressed by her husband President Robert Mugabe that problems facing Essar workers were now a thing of the past.
“Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has told me that I can’t go back without receiving $10 from each Ziscosteel worker here,” she said.
“We know you had gone for a full six months without salaries, but you have since been paid by Essar. This was done after Zanu PF intervened.”
However, the workers dismissed the claims as cheap politicking meant to mislead the electorate into endorsing Zanu PF as a party concerned with the plight of workers.
“We were paid $40 each last Thursday and promised that on Friday we would be given half a month’s salary, but that did not happen.
“It is sad that she made a public statement that we were paid,” King Dube, one of the 3 700 workers who have languished in poverty for 25 months, said.
Another worker Fambisai Vengesai said the First Lady wanted to use their plight to get votes for her husband.
“We are suffering here from years of non-payment of salaries and someone, just out of the fun of it, says we have been paid,” Vengesai said.
“She said things that she has no understanding of just to ensure her way back to State House.”
The ex-Zisco workers’ plight worsened after the company’s closure in 2008 and its eventual takeover by India-based Essar Africa Holdings in 2011 at a cost of $750 million.
Since then, operations have not resumed as Essar Africa Holdings and the government continues to fight over iron ore deposits and the shareholding structure of NewZim Minerals, formerly Buchwa Iron Ore Mining Company, a subsidiary of Ziscosteel.
Outgoing Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube has blamed Zanu PF ministers for stalling the takeover by Essar