BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
AFTER working for close to 30 years as a caretaker at St Peters Anglican Church in Mabelreign, 61-year-old Miphy Madziire has been tossed into the freezing cold with his wife and children following a protracted labour dispute with the parish.
Since Tuesday, the elderly and frail Madziire has had to brave the cold weather together with his wife and children after the Sheriff’s department evicted him from the church cottage which he had occupied for the past 29 years.
Camped just outside the church in the open, Madziire has vowed not to move until the sticky issues surrounding his “forced retirement is resolved”.
Speaking to NewsDay Weekender on Wednesday, Madziire said he felt cheated by the church, which he served selflessly for close to 30 years.
“Last year, the church advised me that they wanted to retire me but we did not agree on the gratuity due to me,” a bitter Madziire said.
He had been earning a paltry US$25 per month, which was only reviewed to US$32 last year.
He said he had always raised the issue of his salary, but was never addressed well.
“The church grounds are vast, but I performed my duties without complaining. So, when they offered me US$300 as gratuity, I refused because that was daylight robbery,” Madziire said.
Since last year, the Madziires were locked in a bitter fight with the church and even engaged legal help.
“After engaging a lawyer, we were offered US$1 800, but this is still not enough for all those years.”
Also at the centre of the battle is a 300m stand in Norton which the couple bought and paid for in full.
“These stands were under the church arrangement and we paid at the diocese the full amount, which is over US$5 000,” he said.
“But to date, we do not have any proof to say we own the stand and this is one of the reasons why we will not leave until we have our title deeds.”
Madziire said the church had even promised to build him a house at the Norton stand as a way of thanking him for his loyal service, but reneged on its pledge.
“We are now being told that we need to top up the money by over US$3 000. Where will I get the money now? I have children who are still in school. One is in third year at university while the other is in Form 1.”
The family is now desperate and pleading for help from well-wishers.
“We have nothing and nowhere to go. We thought we would go to our stand upon retirement and build our home, but look at the money they offered us,” said Madziire’s wife, Petronella Dube.
St Peters reverend-in-charge Noel Magaya referred all queries to the church lawyer, Patony Musendo, who maintained that the church had acted within the confines of the law.
“The church opted to retire Madziire because he was no longer able to perform his duties. He was also given notice to vacate the cottage by December 31 last year, but he was adamant,” Musendo said.
He said when Madziire was finally evicted, they even summoned his relatives, who urged him to leave the church grounds, but he refused.
“The church was willing to engage his other son to take over from his father, but he refused,” Musendo said.
However, Madziire said his son was told that the post required someone with five O-Level passes, which he did not have.
“They told him to apply like everyone else, but that was not what we had agreed upon. They have since employed someone else and said we needed to move,” he said.
On the Norton stands, Musendo said these were managed by the diocese and, therefore, the authorities at St Peters had no influence on the issue.