KWEKWE-BASED Homestake Mining and Technical Services (Pvt) Ltd is evicting the former employees of one of its mines, Tiger Reef, from company houses.
Homestake is Tiger Reef’s parent company.
Tiger Reef, which stopped operations nearly a decade ago leaving about 400 of its employees in destitution, has been retrenching ex-employees as the company, which was owned by LW John, is now under judicial management.
Judicial manager Francis Chingozho has assumed charge of the company while former Homestake executives are among those retrenched or serving on a contract basis.
Homestake company lawyer Valentine Mutatu confirmed the evictions.
“There are three types of people who are in the occupation of those houses,” Mutatu said.
“The first group is of people who were never employees of the company and are tenants but had failed to pay their monthly rentals so they are being evicted on those bases. Another group is that of the former employees of the company and they were staying in those houses as employees and upon termination of their contracts they became tenants and were failing to pay rentals. Meanwhile, another group was of those whose contracts were recently terminated. As part of their retrenchment packages, they were given a choice to take the houses or other offers as they were on salary arrears. I may not be specific on how many are facing eviction and who they are, but what i know is we have court orders to evict,” he said.
He said some of the affected individuals are contesting the evictions in courts, arguing that they were not given enough time.
“However, those arguments have been thrown away by the courts and evictions are going to continue as per judgement from the courts. We started the evictions at the end of March. However, we discovered that the tenants don’t want to move for one reason or another,” Mutatu said.
Documents in the possession of this publication indicate that the former employees were given notice to vacate the company accommodation in late February 2020.
“Our records indicated that you were fully paid your outstanding terminal benefits. You are hereby given three months’ notice with effect from 1 March 2020 to the 31st of March 2020 to vacate. A premises inspection should be done day before a vacation date,” acting human resources manager Ephert Lungu said in one of the letters written to a former employee.
In September, the company in further correspondence to the employees gave some final warnings.
“Notice to vacate company accommodation following your retrenchment from Homestake Mining and Technical Services (Pvt) Ltd on 28 February 2017, notice is hereby given in terms of the retrenchment conditions for you to vacate company accommodation. Our records indicate that you were fully paid your outstanding formal benefits on 14 January 2020. In addition to the above, you were served with a letter on 27th February 2020, giving you 3 months’ notice effective 1st March 2020 to 31st May 2020 to vacate the company house. The company took into consideration the Covid-19 pandemic and let you stay until the situation improved,” Lungu said to another employee in a letter gleaned by this publication.
The employees, some of whom are of Malawian, Zambian and Mozambican origin, were later given up to 1 October 2020 to vacate the company premises.
The evictions began in March this year and had to be briefly stopped after a court application by the former workers.
The ex-workers and tenants however lost the case at the Kwekwe magistrates’ courts. Some are still contesting the matter before the courts.
“I don’t know where the company expects us to go, considering they are owing us some money. I have been with the company for 40 years since I came to this country from Malawi. I gave my all to the company, only to be thrown out like this. It’s incorrect for the company to say they settled our terminal benefits because as far as I am concerned the company is owing me and I am going to contest this eviction,” one of the former workers, Biggy Banda, said.
A proportional representation legislator for Kwekwe, Perseverance Zhou, said Homestake is supposed to exercise leniency during this winter period, especially to women and children.
“We are not against the law, if the ex-workers or the tenants are to be evicted it must be done lawfully. However, it is painful to see that the company is throwing out some widows, some mothers with suckling babies into the cold. Where does the company expect these people to go during this winter period? There is really need for the company to exercise clemency,” she said. — STAFF WRITER.
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