Union warns govt over Tongaat take-over

The Zimbabwe Sugar Milling Workers Union ZISMIWU has warned government against taking over land owned by Sugar milling giant Tongaat Huletts, arguing that the move would have drastic consequences on the country's fragile economic environment.

Prisca Mupfumira
Prisca Mupfumira

Newly elected ZISMIWU President Freedom Madungwe said that the proposed take-over of Tongaat would result in over 20,000 workers being laid off. Madungwe who is also a Zanu (PF) supporter said he was not against the government's land reform programme but warned that new farmers who are being given sugar cane plots do not have enough skills to maximise production.

"The move to take over Tongaat Huletts will have drastic consequences for our economy in addition to leaving over 20,000 people jobless," said Madungwe. "The new farmers who are getting sugar cane plots do not have the required skills to maximise production and they do not have the capacity to employ as many people as we see being employed by the sugar milling giant.”

"We are therefore appealing to government to consider the plight of workers especially in cases where huge numbers of jobs would be lost," he added

The warning by the labour body comes at a time when the Zanu (PF) leadership in Masvingo and government were planning to grab part of the Tongaat Huletts land and dish it out to party stalwarts and traditional leaders.

Several high level meetings between the party’s Masvingo provincial leadership and Tongaat have been held in which the former wants the sugar milling giant to cede part of its land to locals in line with the country's controversial indigenisation policies.

Already 52 traditional leaders in Masvingo province have been promised huge tracts of sugar cane growing land by newly installed provincial affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa.

Last month the minister of labour, public service and social services Prisca Mupfumira temporarily banned ZISMiWU from operating following a serious leadership wrangle that had threatened to tear the labour body apart.

The temporary ban was revoked after a new leadership of the labour movement led by Madungwe was elected into office replacing the one led by Edmore Hwarare.

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