(Photo: Rio Zim)
TOURISM and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi, his personal assistant Mr Obediah Mazombwe and Chivi South legislator Ivene Dzingirai were yesterday ordered to vacate Renco Mine in Masvingo South and not interfere with its operations with immediate effect.
High Court Judge Justice Hlekani Mwayera granted an interim ruling in the case in which RioZim Limited, the owners of Renco Mine, was seeking an order barring the trio from interfering with its operations.
After considering submissions from both parties' lawyers last week, Justice Mwayera found that Minister Mzembi, Mr Mazombwe and MP Dzingirai acted unlawfully in taking over Renco Mine.
"Applicant be and is hereby allowed to land on the airstrip at Renco Mine and collect its gold bullion without any hindrance from the respondents," said Justice Mwayera.
"Respondents be and are hereby directed to all applicants to restore its security personnel at the gates of Renco Mine.
"First respondent (MP Dzingai) and all those claiming occupation through him be and are hereby directed to vacate the guest house as well as other premises he/they had occupied at Renco Mine within 24 hours of this order."
Through their lawyer, Advocate Thabani Mpofu, RioZim officials sought an order directing the trio to allow them to land at Renco Mine airstrip and collect gold bullion without hindrance, restore security personnel at the gate and directing MP Dzingirai to vacate the guest house.
The lawsuit against the three arose after Minister Mzembi, who is the MP for the area, addressed a meeting in the area, after which MP Dzingirai was allegedly appointed by "the community" to take over operations at Renco Mine.
RioZim officials claimed that MP Dzingirai indeed took over the mine and was using a guest house at the compound.
But the trio, which was represented by Mr Jonathan Samukange of Venturas and Samukange, opposed the application arguing that they had no desire to take over the mine.
Minister Mzembi refuted the allegations preferred against him, saying they were malicious, scandalous and defamatory.
The allegations, he said, were intended to insult him in his personal capacity, Zanu-PF as a party, the Government and the people in his constituency who voted for him.
Minister Mzembi said he was trying to resolve the dispute and his involvement was only because he was the area's legislator.
He argued that he should not have been cited as a respondent, adding that as far as he was aware, the dispute was a labour one which should have been taken to the Labour Court.
Minister Mzembi said the RioZim chairman and chief executive had been seeking audience with him for the past six months and on one occasion when he met the chairman during their exchanges, he was offered US$100 000 which he refused.
MP Dzingirai denied that he sought to despoil the mine, saying the allegations were false and baseless.
He denied the presence of militia at the mine and said RioZim had a labour dispute with its workers.
He said the RioZim officials were failing to solve the dispute and were making him a scapegoat.
Mr Dzingirai said he was tasked with setting up a community share trust and alleged that RioZim did not want to implement the full indigenisation plan and was trying to retract from its undertaking.
Renco Mine has shut down after authorities said they were failing to procure raw materials because they could not move the gold out for sale with villagers and workers' wives having a vigil at the mine gate.
The crisis at Renco Mine, the largest gold producer in Masvingo, started early last month after the workers' spouses staged a demonstration against management over poor working conditions and low salaries.
Since then, the women have vowed to continue blocking RioZim officials, who own the mine, from accessing Renco Mine until their grievances were dealt with.
RioZim accused Minister Mzembi and MP Dzingirai of inciting the demonstrations.