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Hwange bid to evict protestors suffers setback

By Mashudu Netsianda and Leonard Ncube

Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL)’s bid to have demonstrators ejected from its premises suffered a setback after its urgent chamber application was removed from the High Court roll.

Hwange Colliery workers wives demonstrating for payment of their husbands' salaries
Hwange Colliery workers wives demonstrating for payment of their husbands’ salaries

Last week, HCCL filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court seeking a court order directing Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga to deploy anti-riot police to eject people protesting at its premises.

Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi struck off the case from the court roll last Friday after it was discovered that HCCL had also filed an ordinary application concerning the same matter at the Harare High Court where the matter is still pending.

HCCL has been locked in a long standing labour dispute with its employees which has seen the workers’ spouses protesting since Monday last week.

Wives of HCCL employees have been demanding that the coal mining company fulfils its pledge to pay them outstanding salaries after agreeing to a scheme of arrangement last year.

Late last month, hundreds of women camped at the management office in Hwange and used tree branches to block management from entering the premises. Some of them have been sleeping at the premises as part of their demonstration.

Dozens of women are still camped at the entrance to the company’s management office where a tent has since been pitched.

HCCL, through its lawyer, Mr Vonani Majoko of Majoko and Majoko Legal Practitioners, last week filed the urgent chamber application citing Police Comm-Gen Matanga, the officer commanding police in Matabeleland North and 10 spouses of its employees who organised the demonstrations as respondents.In his founding affidavit, HCCL representative, Mr Allen Masiya, said they want an order directing the police bosses to discharge the functions of their office in terms of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) as the regulating authority by dispersing the “unlawful” gathering of demonstrators.

The company wanted the protestors to be prevented from disrupting coal mining activities.

“On 29 January 2018, a fairly large and belligerent group of persons numbering more than 200, including the third to 10th respondents, mostly women, descended on the applicant’s offices, chanting slogans and denouncing management and they were waving placards.

“They forced their way through the gate to the HCCL office and all efforts by the applicant’s security personnel to prevent the invasion failed as the demonstrators outnumbered them,” said Mr Masiya.

He said despite making a report, police in Hwange refused to intervene, saying the demonstrators were expressing their constitutional rights. Mr Majoko said although sections 58 and 59 of the Constitution provides the rights to assemble and demonstrate, the fundamental rights and freedoms must be exercised reasonably and with due regards to the rights and freedoms of other persons.

A representative of the protectors, Ms Thokozile Shoko, said: “They deposited another 2.6 percent which at most is $200.

“We are not happy about this because we expect something reasonable which can make us pay school fees for our children and clear our debts. We will continue camping here until they give us our money.”  The Chronicle