Steel company which got land for free pays ‘slave’ wages

EnviroPress Reporter

A new iron and steel company being built in the Manhize area between Chirumhanzu and Chikomba districts is grossly underpaying its overworked employees, and some of them hardly afford transport costs to come to work, sources have revealed.

The massive plant is being built reportedly to the tune of US$750 million by Dinson Iron and Steel Company (Disco) which is a subsidiary of Tsingshan Holdings, a Chinese company employing 760 people at the site.

Internal sources who preferred anonymity said some employees were taking home less than US$60 per month while working for over 12 hours per day.

President Emmerson Mnangwagwa officiated the ground-breaking ceremony of the steel plant on October 06, 2022, although the company claimed that construction work at the site was over 40 percent complete.

“We are working very hard for very long hours but we are not being rewarded for it. We are being exploited ruthlessly and the working conditions resemble slavery,” said one employee who preferred anonymity for fear of victimization.

Disco was given a Special Mining Grant Certificate on March 02, 2021 to exploit the vast iron deposits in the Mwanesi Range.

The plant was also awarded national project status, meaning that besides paying nothing for the land, Disco is enjoying countless other privileges including faster than normal processing of paperwork and duty free import of equipment.

Recently, Harare Eat Member of Parliament (MP) Tendai Biti took the Minister of Mines and Mine Development Winston Chitando to task, demanding answers as to why too many of the special mining leases were being granted even to companies without any money to invest.

Norton MP Themba Mliswa also criticised the land grant; urging the government to create a sovereign wealth fund which would be draw money from such companies as Disco which got their land for free.

Another employee said the company’s land grant had cut deeply into many villagers’ land but nobody had been compensated yet.

 “I come from one of the local communities and there is so much unhappiness that grazing land and fields have been lost to this mining venture. Back home, we have less land and less pastures for our livestock, and we get paid measly wages at the workplace,” said the female employee.

The company’s corporate communication manager Joseph was quoted as saying employees should not expect much from the company at the moment since it was still setting up operations, which meant there was no production taking place as yet.

“It should be noted that we are still starting and we are yet to make a profit. The (wage) figures are so varied depending on the grade of the employee,” he said.

Shoko also admitted that the company had displaced many families but was yet to compensate all of them.

“We have been working with the local district administrator and we have built houses for nine families. We are yet to compensate other families,” he said.

The company is expected to have its first blast furnace up and running by September 2023.

This project was made possible through a partnership with the Southern Africa Trust. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent that of the Trust or its associates.