AT least 12 former National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) employees were arrested on Wednesday after they allegedly trespassed into the parastatal’s Bulawayo works yard to protest non-payment of their terminal benefits.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
NRZ spokesperson Fanuel Masikati confirmed the arrests yesterday, saying the suspects were taken to Donnington Police Station after they allegedly entered the company’s premises without authority. He claimed the suspects were not NRZ employees, but squatters desperate for accommodation.
“They were illegally occupying our premises situated near the company’s workshop. They had occupied single quarters usually used as relief accommodation for our employees,” he said.
But, Association of Railways Terminated Employees (ARTE) chairperson, Lynda Masarira insisted the suspects were ex-NRZ employees demanding their dues.
“Workers staged a demonstration against the company demanding their salaries, but the police came and arrested them claiming they were trespassing. Some of us came here from as far as Gweru and we don’t have anywhere to stay in Bulawayo. Some are staying with their friends,” she said.
“What is painful is that the police even arrested women with babies. So all in all, 17 people were arrested including six children.”
Masarira condemned police actions, saying they were uncalled for. She accused NRZ of driving its former employees into abject poverty.
Over 400 NRZ retrenchees have launched countrywide demonstrations daily in protest against non-payment of their terminal benefits.
According to a petition sent to NRZ management recently, the ex-workers claimed they were owed between $9 000 and $60 000 each by their former employer.
This comes amid disclosures that top managers at the financially-struggling NRZ allegedly claimed about $70 000 as allowances for their children’s school fees at a time shop floor workers have gone for about a year without salaries.
Meanwhile, police said they were investigating a suspected suicide case, where an unidentified man was crushed to pulp by a goods train between Cement Siding and Mpopoma Station on Tuesday.
According to police, the alleged accident occurred around 4pm and is being treated as suicide.
The train driver, Gladman Simango (54) in a report filed to police, said he saw the man lying motionless on the railway line and all efforts to save him came to naught, as the braking distance was too short.
“With not enough breaking distance, the train ran over the man ripping his body into two pieces on the rib cage, while the other wheel cut his left leg above the ankle crashing it into small pieces,” he reported.
NRZ spokesperson Fanuel Masikati confirmed the incident, saying cases of people found sitting or lying on the railway line were on the rise.
“Yes, I got that report and it appears the driver tried to hoot and brake, but the man did not move from the railway line,” he said. “The incident is suspected to be suicide and we urge people to stop resorting to such action. If they have problems they must approach counsellors to seek advice than resorting to suicide.
We also are concerned over people who are found walking or children who are found playing along the railway line. We advise them that the railway line is a protected area and they must not sit, play or walk along it.”