Midlands Bureau Chief
GIANT South African Platinum Mine, Impala Platinum (Implats) is allegedly trying to reduce its workforce in order to cut on the wage bill at its Mimosa Mining Company in Zvishavane to raise salaries for workers at its mine in the neighbouring country, Marikana.
The proposed retrenchment is coming in the wake of enhanced production as the Zvishavane platinum mine paid a dividend of $12 million to its shareholders.
A source at Mimosa Mine told Chronicle yesterday that management was instructed by Implats directors in South Africa to relay the retrenchment message to the workers but developed cold feet.
“The directors have since taken a position to come to Zimbabwe and communicate directly to the workers. They were initially expected at Mimosa today but have since changed the date today,” said the source.
However, the planned strike failed to take place yesterday amid revelations that the directors of the mine’s holding company, South African Implats, were planning to “manage costs” through retrenchments at their Zimbabwe plant to raise salaries for their South African mine which include the infamous Marikana where 34 workers were killed by South African police over a wage dispute on 16 August last year.
Mimosa Mining Company employs 1 670 workers and produces 106 000 ounces of platinum per year.
Senior management were said to be locked in meetings when a Chronicle news crew arrived at the mine at around 12.20pm yesterday.
The management promised to release a press statement by 3pm but they only managed to engage the media at about 4pm.
Mimosa Mine resident director Mr Peter Chimboza could neither confirm nor deny the retrenchment rumours.
Mr Chimboza also refuted claims that Implats directors were coming over to discuss the retrenchment deal.
“It is mere coincidence that our directors are coming to Zimbabwe at a time when there is such talk. They are coming here to visit Unki Mine in Shurugwi with the Institute of Mining Metallurgy. People do that from time to time. Their visit is a technical visit, they are not here to discuss Mimosa issues,” he said.
Mr Chimboza said the Zvishavane-based platinum mine was performing well.
He said it was normal for any business to manage its costs.
“I can neither confirm nor deny the rumours on retrenchments. As part of the ongoing cost review exercise at Mimosa Mining Company, we would like to advise that the organisation is engaged in preliminary discussions on the form, manner and shape such an exercise will take.
Mimosa will endeavour to keep its stakeholders updated on this and any other matter that arises from time to time. We are operating well, our industrial relations with workers are good and safety is alright. We have to manage our costs,” he said.
Mimosa Investments Ltd, the owner of Mimosa Mine, is registered in Mauritius and is owned 50 percent by Implats and 50 percent by Aquarius Platinum Ltd.
Workers on Monday threatened to embark on a “Marikana” style demonstration and involve their families and other residents, if the management went ahead with the planned retrenchment.
The workers on Monday went around Zvishavane Town throwing flyers all over urging their relatives and other residents to come out in large numbers and join them in the strike which, however, failed to take place yesterday as planned.
In their flyers, the workers accused the South African directors of trying to hit back at the Zanu-PF Government for coming up with the indigenisation and empowerment programme which has fast changed the face of many rural communities.
In August last year, 34 Marikana mine workers were killed by the South African police while many more were injured and arrested after they engaged in a strike to push for better wages. The workers were also resisting the company management’s decision to reduce the workforce through retrenchment. South African President Jacob Zuma was quoted in the media as saying the Marikana violence was caused by the mining company’s undermining the wage bargaining system.