NRZ employees turn destitute

HARARE - Workers of Zimbabwe’s biggest rail company, National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), have turned destitute as the company continues to drag its feet on paying their salaries.

About 17 employees and families have taken the drastic measure and have found permanent residence in neglected and dilapidated structures at the rail company’s Club Hide-Out in Harare’s Lochnivar area, after being sacked by landlords for none payment of rentals.

It has been just 10 months since NRZ started defaulting on employee salaries, but already the affected families have been rendered destitute, as Zimbabwe’s sole rail transport continues to crumble.

For four years now, NRZ employees have been involved in countless labour demonstrations and endless dialogues with company management in the hope their grievances would be solved — but all to no avail.

While still fully employed by the country’s flagship rail carrier, it seems their situation has degenerated for the worse with non-payment of their salaries. They are now living like squatters.

When the Daily News crew visited the families, embarrassed by their plight, the employees rushed inside their cabins full of quality furniture while others chose to identify themselves as visitors when in fact they were occupants of the tiny shoddily-built shelters supposed to be for railway track maintainers which are hidden in the bushy area of Lochnivar.

A few were brave enough to narrate their ordeal but only in confidence.

“I was thrown out by my landlord two months ago as I was now constantly failing to pay rentals. I had no option but to come and join other families here,” said one employee (name withheld).

At least four people are being forced to share a single small dingy room built for storage purposes while others squash in a grinding mill house.

The families claimed they recently received $150 dollars, a salary portion from last August.

Children sat on the sand in uniform, faces sulky and mouths dry.

“I know you are hungry but I do not afford three meals anymore,” said one mother to her son who had been turned away from school over non-payment of fees.

Similarly to the Lochnivar situation, many other employees around Harare are said to have moved into the struggling parastatal’s properties as they try to help their employer manage the crisis.

Southerton ward 14 councillor Peter Moyo fears another cholera outbreak as most of the structures do not have ablution facilities and water.

“This situation plainly proves how mismanaged and disorganised NRZ is. This is why we say when soldiers retire they should go and rest. Now Karakadzai has rendered these people homeless but they are working. Government should do something.

“Now I have been shown letters from the management ordering them to vacate or otherwise the guards will have to unleash vicious dogs on them, honestly do NRZ bosses have hearts? Cholera looms here,” he said.

The councillor said he had approached the Harare mayor to see how the families could be helped to avert a possible cholera outbreak after attempts to engage NRZ bosses proved futile.

NRZ also owns a clinic that has since closed its doors in Rugare among a host of other run down assets across the country.

The rail company’s spokesperson Fanuel Masikati was economic with his words when reached for comment.

“The employees did not follow due process of the law,” said Masikati while further declining to disclose even the parastatal’s current staff load.

NRZ general manager Retired Air Commodore Mike Karakadzai was quoted in State-run media, during a recent strike by train operators, saying employees’ grievances were nothing new.

NRZ is currently involved in a legal battle with the employees who as ordered by the labour court were supposed to be paid their dues but the company has since challenged the judgment.

Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railway Workers Union spokesperson was said to be back in office on Monday. - Wendy Muperi

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.