Is trade unionism still alive and well in Zimbabwe?

Teachers, doctors, nurses all with mounting grievances with the employers in Zimbabwe


By Brian Manyati


The immediate answer is unionism is alive and well. What with the prolonging teachers’ industrial strikes Zimbabwe continues to witness.

All in follow up to doctors and nurses industrial action which for now are to a fair extent with a resolved impasse. In the last week I met up with a union representative leading to the SMM interview below:

Welcome Mr Chinhema to the Chat Room with 1873 Radio’s Brian Tawanda Manyati (BTM) @ +263772815211 or briantawandamanyati on LinkedIn under the Connections2Communities (C2C) conversations.

You are the Secretary General of the Associated Diamond and Allied Minerals Union, it is my pleasure to be hosting you.

Kindly note that this interview session is in follow up of my perusal of the Zimre judgement of 2005 and my findings of it to have in one way or another linked itself to SMM matters.

BTM: Mr Chinhema kindly are you by any chance representing the present day SMM employees’ grievances through their workers’ committee representatives?

Mr. Chinhema: Yes my name is Justice Chinhema the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union. Not Associated as what you are referring to. Locally we are a proud ZFTU affiliate and Internationally we are an affiliate of the Industriall Global Union.

Ideologically we advance Socialist ideology for good governance and justice for all works in the work place and society.
We believe in power of the trade union in empowering workers against exploitation by capital .

Yes we are currently representing workers of SMM, some are retired former workers, some were put on unpaid leave and are regarded as workers, current workers working now, dismissed workers as well as widows, widowers and dependents of former workers.

Remember these people were dumped and had lost hope to ever have any assistance from anyone, including politicians who always lie to them during election time. I personally happened to pass through Zvishavane in 2019 on our way to Sabi Gold and found people dumped on the road side.

I stopped my car to enquire what was happening because rain was coming. I was told they were former workers evicted from Mashava after the mine had sold houses they were living in to Great Zimbabwe University.

Was so angry to see someone who had worked for 40 years with his torn blankets and broken down household items dumped.

I felt surely something has to be done, and indeed something was done. All evictions we stopped them up to now. And from there everyone started to ask how they can join the union, we could not resist the membership even when we knew they won’t be able to pay subscriptions.

Sometimes God just wants people to help others and we took it as a challenge. And here we are over 1000 workers and former workers are proud members of ZDAMWU, union Yevanhu (a people’s union). We are very proud of what we have done so far to help these elders who for the rest of their lives know not of any other employer besides SMM . Whatever several names I now hear.

BTM: In general, how vibrant is trade unionism in the present day Zimbabwe?

Mr. Chinhema SMM: As unions we are at cross roads. The environment that we are living in is so difficult for any trade union to be vibrant nomatter how good you are or committed your are.

Our law has made unions enemies of the state. You can not strongly speak, demonstrate against any injustice to your members. We are seeing ourselves going back to the colonial era where trade unions were banned for exercising their rights. Capitalism is now with us as it was before our the liberation struggle.

BTM: SMM before 2004 and SMM post 2004 to date, how do you compare or contrast the two worlds from your employee representatives’ perspective?

Mr. Chinhema: Oooooooooo my friend. I wish you visit Zvishavane and Mashava one day, and visit the old suburbs, the old man and woman there without me talking to you, will tell you what is better. I am still researching why the mine (SMM) was placed under reconstruction.

Workers were earning salaries. Some say they were offered shares into the mine. Like any other company in Zimbabwe, challenges were there before 2004. But post 2004 it has become worse and no one who worked for SMM ever want the present arrangement.

Workers were better off with the error before 2004 and the community was very alive, infrastructure was intact not now where the buildings, mining plant is just historical. We see Vana vechikoro (school children) everywhere, kumaoffice emine (at mine offices), workshops and so forth.

Thanks to Gwaradzimba (the State appointed Administrator of SMM in 2004), who will go into the genesis books of life as the most ruthless man and a destroyer. He has destroyed infrastructure destroyed equipment, livelihoods and he is busy asset stripping the mine off.

When he was appointed whether illegally or legally, his mandate was to resuscitate the mine not to destroy it like what’s happening.

BTM: The purpose of the SMM reconstruction order of 2004 was inorder that the State resuscitates the fortunes of SMM based on the government’s allegations then of technical mismanagement, desperate mismanagement, cosmetic mismanagement and fraud. Has the fortunes of SMM to you as employee representatives been satisfactorily turned around to this date? If not what is going on at present day SMM?

Mr. Chinhema: My friend there is nothing like turning around but looting. We now see makorokoza (artisanal miners) mining gold, chrome, the Chinese and so forth in the mining concession of SMM. There is nothing to turn around anymore. VaGwaradzimba is working for his pension now.

I believe he is about to reach retirement age and surely he will need a package from his masters as a thank you for complicity in destroying a very critical and strategic economic enabler. We are Very disappointed. We thought the mine was going to be resuscitated but ummmmmmm maybe only if Gwaradzimba is stopped whatever he is doing right now.

BTM: As workers rights representatives what do you think is the way forward to resolving the challenges you cite the present day SMM as facing? Also from a union perspective, what would you set as the objectives of SMM workers in such circumstances?

Mr Chinhema: Powers that be must realise their mistake and correct it, I am sure the mine can be rescuscitated, recapitalised. Secondly, as a matter of urgency, everything that is happening right now must be stopped until everything that happened is corrected.

Thirdly, workers need to be paid all outstanding money. Everyone in Shabane and Mashava wants to see the mine working again. They want to see their children getting employed again and they want their money for the years they worked without pay. They expect to see justice happening.

BTM: Do you agree to Constitutionalism and the Rule of law? Are you well with these two being the entry points to addressing any grievances the SMM employees whose rights you stand for may be having?

Mr. Chinhema: Any person who doesn’t believe or agree to Constitinalisim and rule of law is a dictator who will fall like many of them. Our entry point that we would want to see is to go back to the rule of law. Let’s respect the rule of law and observe Constitinalisim.

Workers of SMM have suffered because the rule of has not been applied. The courts of law are also courts of justice, we want to see justice happening and everyone observing the rule of law. No one is above the law. People can enjoy now but one day they say the long arm of law will catch up with them.


Intervier’s Contacts: LinkedIn – briantawandamanyati
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