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Retrenched workers pour their hearts out

BULAWAYO – Emotions ran high during a Public Policy Hearing organised by Bulawayo Agenda as part of the 6th edition of the Ideas Festival last week when workers who have been laid-off and those who have gone for months without receiving their salaries due to the collapse of industries in Bulawayo shared their ordeal.

Businessman Delma Lupepe accused of mismanaging Merlin
Businessman Delma Lupepe accused of mismanaging Merlin

Employees from Marvo Stationery, National Blankets and Merlin gave heartrending accounts of how they and their families have struggled to make ends meet due to non payment of their salaries.

“Many of the people who were retrenched have no alternative sources of income and they have been reduced to beggars,”said an emotional Nyasha Mugurasave, who is Chairman of the Merlin Workers Committee.

“Many of them are wallowing in poverty and their children have stopped going to school because their parents cannot pay school fees.”

Mugurasave alleged that the demise of Merlin was due to company owner Delma Lupepe’s mismanagement and his desire to maintain a tight grip on all sections of the company, despite limited knowledge of the textile industry.

“When Lupepe took over the company in 2004 he appointed his close friend Miyet Mpofu as the Managing Director, a man who had no experience on textiles,” charged a distraught Mugurasave.

“They continued to make declarations that seriously hurt the company despite advice from experienced employees. Now look, hundreds of people are suffering because of that and our children’s future has been doomed.”

Between 2009 and 2011 Merlin employees allegedly went for almost two years without getting their salaries although the company was exporting products to other regional countries.

When the workers committee attempted to engage company owners they were all fired, while an additional 41 more employees were dismissed the following month allegedly for sabotaging activities at the company.

Mugurasave said all these people plus many others who con-tinued to report for work although production has stopped were the bread winners in their families, and they are now stranded.

Sharing similar struggles at the same meeting, three National Blankets Company former employees, Mlungisi Dube, Patrick Mugove and Mehluli Phuthi, said that they are unable to make ends meet ever since they were re-trenched in 2009.

“Why is the government failing to act on the issue of de-industrialisation of Bulawayo?” Phuthi asked. “Our children can no longer go to school, they do not have food and we can hardly survive.

“Why should we suffer like this when we have a government that claims to be responsible?”.

Mbonisi Moyo of Marvo Stationery also highlighted the challenges that they are now going through due to the company’s decision to import branded books from a South African company called Freedom Stationery.

“Production has stopped at the company. Most workers have been laid-off because we are now receiving books from South Africa,” Moyo said. “Those of us who are remaining have gone for ten months without receiving our salaries.

“The situation is bad. Our families are starving.”.

The issue of the demise of industries in Bulawayo continues to make headlines and the government is yet to proffer a sustainable solution after the failure of the much publicised Distressed Industries and Marginalised Areas Fund (DIMAF) scheme.

The Public Policy Hearing brought together economists, industrialists, workers unions, government and the public in an attempt to find solutions to the continuing collapse of industries in Bulawayo. Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

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