NRZ workers sleep at station

BULAWAYO - About 45 National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) workers slept at the parastatal’s main station on Tuesday night claiming they had been evicted from their lodgings due to non-payment of rentals.

The workers say their sleep-in protest has been necessitated by the cash-strapped parastatal’s failure to pay them their salaries for over a year now.

When the Daily News visited the local main railway station at around 11pm, the disgruntled workers who included men and women, could be seen huddled in blankets sleeping on a pavement while others were gathered around the fire to keep themselves warm.

“We do not have anywhere to go. Our landlords have evicted us, so the only solution was to come here with our belongings,” said one worker who declined to be named for fear of reprisals.

“For more than a year now, management slashed our salaries and promised to pay what they have termed ‘predicted salaries’ but they are still struggling to pay those peanuts,” he said.

The workers who complained about what they term poor managerial skills by the leadership declared that the main station was now their second home until their concerns are addressed.

“We have taken our families to the rural areas because squatting in town with families had become a nightmare. So, this is now our home. We will be bringing our belongings here — at least we have NRZ, our landlord whom we think may not chase us because he owes us and not the other way around,” said another worker.

Despite Transport minister Obert Mpofu having announced he had courted the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA), as part of a push for the revival of the once powerful rail network in southern Africa, suggestions on the ground speak of an institution that is gradually going into the pits.

Two months ago, Mpofu revealed that the government was close to sealing a $450 million loan facility from the DBSA, for the revival of the country’s railway system.

The sleep-in protest comes after the workers, bidding to find possible solutions with regards to their grievances, unsuccessfully engaged the company’s management on Thursday and Friday.

Speaking on behalf of the affected workers Juniel Manyere, the Railways Association of Enginemen (RAE) vice president said the management has proved to be the worst enemy of the organisation.

“We have a management that has no clue as to how our problems can be solved.

“We first engaged the area management traffic superintendent Mr Chimunye who read us a circular on the projected business and financial performance of the organisation from January to end of this month and I should state, we were not happy about it,” Manyere said.

The circular, dated February 27 signed by general manager L A Mukwanda, reads, “the performance of the organisation remains subdued due to the off peak performance season for the organisation on account of various factors among them, the annual shutdown and the  late resumption of operations by some of our customers.”

The circular further attributed the limited amount of railway traffic to “severe operating challenges” experienced by its major customers Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) and Zimasco as having a negative bearing on the “organisation’s revenue earning capacity.”

“Consequent to the forgoing, it is projected that the May 2014 salaries which were supposed to be paid by February 28, 2015 will be delayed,” read the circular adding that the salaries would be paid in phases starting the week ending March 6 to 20, 2015.

This triggered outrage among the workers, according to Manyere.

“What pained us about Chimunye’s statements is,  he told us to devise other means of survival like selling tomatoes to enable us to pay rent. He told us that he is into dog breeding so we should follow suit. This to us is nonsense,” he said.

Manyere said they took their grievances up with the director of operations Michael Matende and later Area manager southern area, Dube Kaguru who both never helped the situation.

“We expected these high ranked officials at least to give us hope, but sadly and unprofessionally they told us there is no solution in sight, one of them even went as far as saying there was a possibility of the company shutting down and we would become jobless. I feel these managers should just quit, its clear they are hopeless and as such they have failed,” Manyere said.

NRZ public relations officer Fanuel Masikati attributed the situation at the parastatal to the effects of the economy.

“This has been happening many times now, but the fact , all this is because of the economic situation where business is low and the industry is not performing well,” Masikati told the Daily News.

“All we are saying is, we are taking all possible measures to try and ensure that workers are paid in full,” he added.

Last year, Mpofu slammed the railway workers for conducting demonstrations, saying such protests were scaring away potential investors.

Over the past years, economists have indicated that NRZ needs at least $2 billion for it to be fully operational.

Comments (5)

my best friend's ex-wife makes $63 /hr on the laptop . She has been unemployed for ten months but last month her check was $19437 just working on the laptop for a few hours. go to the website .for work detail go to tech tab..... ====> www.goo.gl/4bDbql

morkal - 12 March 2015

..........he told us to devise other means of survival like selling tomatoes to enable us to pay rent. He told us that he is into dog breeding so we should follow suit. HAMAWE MUSADARO, HOW CAN A PERSON IN THE SUPERVISORY ROLE ( management traffic superintendent Mr Chimunye) DEGENERATE THESE ENGINE-MEN TO PAUPERS LIKE THAT. THAT IS THE WORST DISRESPECT TO HUMANITY OF ALL TIME. KUNYARARA ZVITORI NANE CHOSE

Master P - 12 March 2015

The best ever decision I made was to quit NRZ. Already back then 10 years ago I could see where we were headed. I remember selling my leave days to pay school fees. I never thought it would get this bad. Even if it ever improves it would make no difference because I would be almost retiring with nothing and I had a good job. I feel sorry for my colleagues that stayed behind that are going through this hell.

Changamira - 12 March 2015

It is Mpofu who is scaring the investors. Who in his sober senses want to make deals with mpofu , whose character is well documented. he wanted the money then, to save his bank.

X-MAN IV - 12 March 2015

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