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    Thursday, 26 May 2016

    2 000 to lose jobs as Govt takes over 4000 hectares

    • Fields with ripe sugarcane pegged for party activists


    I – The country which is facing a serious unemployment crisis could
    see another 2 000 employees losing jobs in the next few weeks as Government has started moves to take away a further 4 000 hectares of land from sugar-producing giant Tongaat Hulett.
    Some 2 000 hectares are being pegged out at Hippo Valley and another 2 000
    hectares at Triangle. As happened last year,  Government  officials  are  pegging
    out plots in fields that have ripe sugarcane and harvesting is staring this week.
    The  new  beneficiaries,  most  of  them party activists are going to take over the
    new plots together with the ripe sugarcane.  Like  in  previous  years  this  would
    see  the  new  beneficiaries  harvesting  the sugarcane without investing a single cent in growing the plants and ironically sell to Tongaat who are the real owner of the crop thereby earning tens of thousands of dollars. They then use the money to buy luxury cars and houses.
    The Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Douglas Mombeshora confirmed
    the development and said that pegging of the plots has just started.
    He  however,  would  not  comment  on the serious losses of jobs that was going
    to come with the new empowerment programme.
    "We  asked  our  officers  in  Masvingo to go and peg sugarcane plots in Hippo
    Valley and Triangle and I dont know how far they have gone so far. We agreed that none should be given an offer letter without being shown the land. As the Minister I only intervened when there were taskcomplaints that the plots are not even and we instructed our officers to peg out equal  plots  within  the  plantations,"  said
    The president of the Zimbabwe Sugar  and  Milling  Industry  Workers  Union,
    Freedom  Mudungwe  said,  "we  are  yet to get notification from the employer but
    we saw land officers pegging. Last time when Mkwasine was taken workers were
    moved to Hippo Valley and now Section 6,  7  and  9  were  all  pegged  so  we  don't know what will happen".
    Sugar Production and Milling Industry Workers Union executive secretary, Adonia  Mutero  said,  "the  employer  has  not yet communicated with us but there is no way that the company is going to keep a surplus workforce. In terms of retrenchment rules these are some of the factors which legally allow employers to lay off workers. The available workforce is not equivalent to hectarage but they will do it after communicating with worker organisations".
    Sources  said  it  was  only  President Robert Mugabe who can act to serve the
    impending job losses whose ripple effects will affect thousands of children and
    house wives.
    Tongaat Corporate Affairs and Communications  Manager, Adelaide  Chikunguru asked The Mirror to put its questions in writing but could not comment by the
    time of going to Press.The Mirror is informed that Tongaat currently  holds  29  000  hectares  of  land under sugarcane at its three estates Hippo Valley,Triangle  and  Mwenezana.
     The company will definitely be unable to pay some of its workers when it loses 4 000 hectares or 14% of its total hectarage plus the cane it had grown.Tongaat currently employs about 19000  employees  making  it  the  biggest
    employer outside Government in Masvingo Province and even the whole country.
    Government has been hesitating to take over land from Tongaat Hulett years after former Governor for Masvingo Titus Maluleke controversially issued 138 offer
    letters for sugarcane plots to people without Government approval.
    Sources told The Mirror that there is no way that company is going to maintain its
    workforce when 4 000hectares which is under sugarcane is taken and given to new farmers. The sources said that the aim of Government officials is to push out Tongaaat at this time when sugarcane is ripe for harvesting and take over the plants.
    The same happened at Mkwasine last year when farmers took over sugarcane
    fields  and  went  ahead  and  sold  a  crop they never worked for. Many farmers later failed to maintain the standards and are now struggling."I am sure Tongaat is just in darkness as everyone else on what is happening because there is no communication from Government regarding the latest takeover. "The bottom line however, is that when that happens some workers employed on those fields and downstream will have to go because there will be no revenue for the company to pay them," said a source.
    Tongaat is one of the few companies that decided to maintain its workforce
    levels even at the time when most companies took advantage of the Zuva case and fired workers on three-month notice.Chiefs  from  Chiredzi  have  however,
    expressed their displeasure at the new allocation process which they argued was
    living out the traditional leaders and people from Chiredzi.
    The Chiefs also said that some people were  benefitting  several  times  and  are
    multiple-land owners in Mkwasine and Hippo Valley.
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