Gun Toting Zanu PF youth leader charged for sexual assault

International watchdogs condemn harassment of union

Masvingo – The ruling Zanu PF provincial youth chairperson for Masvingo, Delight Mandebvu, has been charged for sexual assault and violence while forcibly dispersing a group of union leaders who had set up an exhibition tent to commemorate Workers’ Day at Bikita Minerals on 1 May.

The Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union (ZDAMWU) education and training officer, Takawira Masocha, was among those that laid charges against Mandebvu (pictured) at Bikita Police Station on Wednesday 15 May.

It took several days for the law enforcers to formally charge the alleged assailant, though.

The police have over the years been accused of failing to take action against members of the ruling party, in some cases inverting cases by arresting those that would have filed reports against them.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) recorded the case under Reports Received Book (RRB) number 5766972.

Allegations are that Mandebvu indecently manhandled Thelma Manjoma, a female ZDAMWU intern, and pointed a gun at other union members as he tried to disperse them.

He is alleged to have indecently touched Kanjoma while trying to seize the mobile phone which she was using to record the incident.

NewsHub established that, besides Kanjoma and Masocha, the other complainants in the case are ZDAMWU national youth coordinator, Dorcus Nerupiri, the insurance marketing officer, Queen Kusotera, and the gender and women coordinator, Vimbai Chinhema.

The union has annoyed the Bikita Minerals management and the ruling party by consistently writing adverse reports on the unfair labour practices allegedly being perpetrated by the lithium mining company.

The company is owned by a Chinese outfit, the Shenzhen-listed Sinomine that acquired Bikita Minerals for US$180 million in January 2022 and announced a US$300 million investment to increase production and extend the life of the mine.

Reports of unfair labour practices and lithium smuggling have dogged Bikita Minerals for more than a year.

Recently, ZDAMWU supported several wives of mine workers who protested against the death of their colleague following the company’s refusal to release an ambulance to ferry her to Harare for specialist care related to her pregnancy.

The alleged harassment of the union workers during the Workers’ Day fair at Bikita Minerals has attracted international condemnation.

Unions from across the world that are allied to ZDAMWU have written solidarity letters and castigated Mandebvu and Bikita Minerals for violating the rights of workers to assemble.

A Switzerland-based labour union added its voice to the condemnations and urged the lithium company to respect workers’ rights.

“(We are) calling upon the Bikita Minerals management to respect national laws that include the constitution and the Labour Act which protect the rights of trade unions. Further, Zimbabwe has ratified the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s Conventions 87 and 98 which protect trade union rights to freedom of association, to organise and collective bargaining.

“Mining companies, including Bikita Minerals, must respect and not violate these conventions,” wrote the Switzerland-based IndustriAll Global Union in a 20 May letter addressed to the Bikita Minerals mine manager, David Mwanza.

A union based in Egypt—the African Federation for Miners and Mineral Wealth— urged the Zimbabwean government to investigate the harassments.

“We urge the government of Zimbabwe to launch a thorough investigation into this deplorable incident and hold those responsible accountable for their action,” wrote the union in a 6 May letter addressed to the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister, July Moyo.

Mandebvu accuses ZDAMWU of seeking regime change in Zimbabwe and harassing the management of the Chinese-owned company.

He is reportedly leading efforts to force mine workers to ditch ZDAMWU and join a new pro-Zanu PF union that has been formed at Bikita Minerals.

The ruling party youth leader also faces more criminal charges for allegedly assaulting the immediate former mayor of Masvingo, Collen Maboke, and his wife, Tariro.

Also Published by NewsHubZim