MORE than 25 employees who worked for Hlekweni Training Centre in Bulawayo are yet to receive their full pay, salary arrears and benefits following the institution’s closure in June without paying most of their dues.
The institution is reportedly promising to pay them as soon as the money becomes available amid revelations the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) has shown interests in taking over operations at the institution.
According to the Hlekweni newsletter, the institution was closed on June 30 2014 after 47 years of service. Some of the workers have since taken the institution to the courts. Hlekweni Centre’s board chairperson Sipho Nsimbi yesterday confirmed that the institution was yet to fully clear the workers’ arrears and blamed the delay to clear payments on the shortage of funds.
“It’s not true that we have not been paying people since the closure, but we have been paying them something whenever we get the money,” she said.
“We stopped the training part of operations, but we are still operating.
“We just stopped training because we did not want to continue accumulating arrears, but when money comes we give the workers something.”
Nsimbi said there were donors who used to fund the project and they had approached them for assistance.
“Right now the money is not there, we are looking for it,” she said.
“We are approaching some people who used to fund us for help.”
Nsimbi said they were still looking for a vibrant organisation to take over the operations of the institution and Zimta had expressed interest.
“Zimta has come to us wanting to take over the institution and we are still talking,” he said.
“If Zimta is taking over, may be they will be able to pay us something and that will help us to pay the workers arrears using that money.”
The newsletter reveals that Hlekweni had a special place in the hearts of many British Quakers who worked there or helped fund the work. Thousands of young Zimbabweans gained livelihoods from the institution and the final cohort graduated in mid-June.
One worker took the institution to the arbitrator on March 25 this year, where he was awarded $16 595, which was registered at the High Court. After Hlekweni Centre failed to comply with the award, the employee took the matter back to the High Court where Bulawayo High Court Judge Justice Lawrence Kamocha, on August 5 2014 issued a provisional order that the employee be paid.
After they failed to pay on September 2, the employee filed for an execution of the order seeking an order granting the deputy Sheriff to attach property worth the amount he was owed.
On September 19 Hlekweni Centre filed for the stay of execution of the order, which Justice Kamocha granted. The institution had stated that it was still functional and would pay the employee.
It then was discovered that at the time when the institution was blocking the execution of the High Court order, it was disposing most of the property which was supposed to be attached to pay the worker. The worker then sought a High Court order to block the institution from selling the property.
Justice Kamocha then ordered the institution to stop disposing the property which was listed in the attachment list or those which were attached.
The employee is yet to get paid his granted award.