Closure of the industries in Bulawayo and imminent retrenchments in Hwange is a serious cause for concern. Overtime there has been a general consensus that closure of industries in Bulawayo is a result of economic challenges faced by the country; some argue that it is a result of sanctions imposed to the Zimbabwean government in the turn of the millennium due to human rights abuses and bad governance. Others submit that sanctions were a result of bad governance i.e. necessary but the chaotic land reform programme, arbitrarily arrests and detention of a number of human rights defenders and crack down on dissenting voices that dared to challenge the ruling elite.
However I intend to focus on the implications of the closure of many companies in Bulawayo and the imminent retrenchment of workers at Hwange Colliery Company Limited. The Herald newspaper reported that Hwange Colliery Company Limited will retrench at least half of its more than 3 200 workforce in the second half of 2014 and hopes to conclude two loan facilities worth US$33, 5 million at the end of May to recapitalise operations. In June 2012, the company retrenched 304 employees. Questions such as what will happen to the families of the affected employees swiftly engulfed my mind, I see school and college drop outs, deaths, breakdown of families, suicide, street kids, vagrants, prostitutes, I see a cloud of poverty hovering over the restive town of Hwange. I ponder whether there isn`t another way or plan that can be adopted instead of retrenching over 1500 workers and I am alarmed by the ripple effects of this strategy. Did we not learn lessons at macro level from the Bretton Woods concocted and sponsored Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) in 1992 in the name conditional aid to achieve economic growth.
One of my friends asked me a very strategic question, he wanted know whether the Hwange Colliery Company Limited will retain workers as soon it recapitalizes, he said that he feared there will be importation of labour when the company begins to realize some level of growth and stability. He felt that this was well orchestrated covert strategy to CLOSE INDUSTRIES, RETRENCH, REOPEN AND REPLACE with people from outside the region. After a careful analysis of his arguments I noted some grain of truth as the precedence has already been set.
I quickly remembered what happened in Bulawayo at ZESA where members of the Mthwakazi Joint Resolution on 8 April 2013 were arrested marching to deliver a petition to ZESA for employing labourers from other regions instead of the local youths and then subsequently charged and made to pay guilty fines of $500.00. We also witnessed another incident in Victoria Falls where Food Express shipped over 30 young people from Gweru and beyond to open a restaurant in the tourism hub, residents protested vowed to boycott and it was later closed when residents lived to their word. My friend concluded that perhaps this a deliberate move to close industries and then reopen by recruiting labourers or workers from outside the region by so doing people from this region would have been alienated and will flock in numbers to South Africa and other neighbouring. What do you think? Let’s get talking?
Picture: courtesy of the web