HWANGE – Members of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Mines and Mining Development were on Friday left seething with anger after Hwange Colliery administrator Bekithemba Moyo and the management committee snubbed them during a visit to the coal miner.
Hwange mines coal in the northwest of Zimbabwe on some of the country’s richest coal deposits.
The committee was on a tour to hear how the company is operating after Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando gazetted an order, effective October 30, placing the company under reconstruction in terms of section 4 of the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act.
Hwange, in which Zimbabwe’s government is the biggest shareholder with 37 percent shares, is the nation’s second largest coal producer and supplies coke to national electricity company Zesa.
The reconstruction order appointed Moyo, co-founder and director of DBF Capital partners, to be the administrator of the company, together with two assistant administrators under his control and direction — Mutsa Mollie Jean Remba, the current managing partner of Harare-based law firm Dube, Manikai & Hwacha, and Munashe Shava, a chief operating officer and project leader at Great Dyke Investments, Harare.
The reconstruction order suspends the board of directors of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed miner, which also trades its shares on the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges.
The minister has also given notice that he will apply to the High Court for confirmation of the order.
Led by their chairperson Temba Mliswa, the committee members found the offices empty and were forced to conduct a meeting with workers under a tree.
Mliswa blasted Moyo for failing to respect Parliament.
“As Parliament we operate in terms of Section 192 of the Constitution. We meet the administrator and all stakeholders for them to give oral evidence. We came here to assess the situation so that we can make good recommendations.
“The administrator felt there was no need for Parliament to come here. They are totally misdirected. The administrator was informed in time and he wrote to the speaker of National Assembly saying that we had no authority to come to Hwange. He is totally misinformed.
“As Parliament, we are the people’s eye. We represent the people. We need to understand the vision of the administrator. It’s an inquiry, so I don’t know why he behaved in such a way when the new dispensation is talking about accountability,” a fuming Mliswa said.
He indicated that they were mulling charging the administrator with contempt of Parliament.
“We are going to sit down as a committee. We don’t want to have people who don’t want to respect the Parliament. Undermining Parliament is undermining the people of Zimbabwe. We have rules to follow on people who do not respect Parliament,” he said.
The Act governing contempt of Parliament is the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act. The General Laws Amendment Bill, recently gazetted by Parliament, has amended the Act.
The Act gives Parliament, when sitting as a court, power to impose not only fines for contempt of Parliament, but also imprisonment for up to two years in default of payment of the fines.
Meanwhile, workers who spoke to the parliamentary panel blasted the government saying the issue of reconstruction is not benefiting them in any way.
Workers’ committee chairperson Deliverance Nyoni said the reconstruction of the company is only meant to benefit certain bigwigs.
“We want to apologise for the unfortunate reception. I am not scared, I want to tell you that there are certain bigwigs who are benefiting from this crisis. The company is not insolvent there are some who only want to benefit.
“As workers we have sacrificed our lives for this company, we need to be respected after going for five years without salaries. We are now being told that the company is now under reconstruction and they are not able to pay us. We would want to see a competent management,” Nyoni said.
Former deputy Mines minister Fred Moyo and Chitando were roundly blamed by the workers for destroying the company.
“Chitando appointed failed managers to run this company. He took the managers he was working with at Zimasco and appointed them here. These managers caused the closure of Zimasco,” he said. Chitando was unreachable for comment.
Hwange Colliery Company was last month placed under reconstruction in a bid to set it on the course to profitability, following a number of viability challenges, which many have attributed to corruption and mismanagement.
The company is heavily indebted and owes the government in excess of $150 million, amid claims that its liabilities outstrip the value of its assets.