Traditional chief spearheads job recruitment for Chinese mine

Moses Ziyambi

Bikita, Masvingo—Chief Marozva of Bikita—real name Ishmael Mudhe—and local Zanu PF members are acting as recruiting agents for Bikita Minerals, a mega-million Chinese-dominated lithium mine in Masvingo, locals have said.

Their involvement has caused an uproar in surrounding local communities where jobless villagers are accusing the senior traditional leader and ruling party fronts of nepotism and favouritism.

Chief Marozva confirmed his involvement in the controversial recruitment process.

Chief Marozva with President Mnangagwa

The US$180 million Bikita Minerals that is owned by Sinomine Resource Group, a Chinese entity, is Zimbabwe’s biggest lithium miner that is among top producers in Africa and worldwide.

Sources that spoke to NewsHub on condition of anonymity accused the ruling party and the traditional leader of positioning themselves as the de facto recruitment agents for the lithium producer.

The sources said scores of job seekers throng Chief Marozva’s homestead on a daily basis to get  assistance from the traditional leader.

“They (Zanu PF and Chief Marozva) have usurped recruitment power from the company’s HR (human resources) department. I went to the mine office to submit my CV after seeing a recruitment notice but I was advised to go through the chief, which I did but I still did not get the job,” said one job seeker.

Another job hunter was also advised to seek recommendation from the chief before making a job application as a plant operator.

However, even after securing the recommendation, he went through another unusual selection process at the mine, whereby the company’s human resources staff used a chance system.

“The chief submitted a list of those that he recommended and I was on it. However, the company ended up using a funny system to select new employees.

“We had to pick a card from a container and, if it read ‘yes’, you got the job, but if it read ‘no’, you went back home. I was among those that picked a “no” card,” said the source.

This was confirmed by some internal sources who, however, complained that recruitment by drawing lots was unfair and did not necessarily attract competent workers.

Sources accused the chief of helping only his relatives, cronies and those that bribed him and claimed Zanu PF assisted card-carrying party members only.

Chief Marozva admitted to playing a part in Bikita Minerals’ recruitment process, insisting that his involvement was meant to ensure locals got a strong quota in the company’s workforce.

“I made a request to be given an 80 percent quota in all new recruitments of unskilled labour and a 40 percent slot for skilled labour. This is necessary to ensure that our own people are not crowded out by outsiders as had been the case for long.

“Yes, people queue at my homestead almost every day but it’s actually the company that sends them, and as their leader, I can’t send them away,” said Chief Marozva.

He dismissed the allegation of soliciting for kickbacks from job seekers and the mine, which is reportedly helping him to build a house.

“Nobody can come forward and make a genuine claim that I asked them for favours to get a job at the mine. As locals, we suffer the noise and dust pollution everyday so we are justified to request for a bigger stake in the jobs. Personally, I am not getting anything much from the mine and I am building my house without anybody’s assistance,” he said.

Zanu PF Masvingo provincial chairperson, Robson Mavhenyengwa, denied that his party was demanding job quotas from the mine.

“We are not involved at all. I have never signed a letter on behalf of anybody to get employment at Bikita Minerals. We are busy campaigning for the president and do not have time for that.

“Maybe it’s the office of the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs doing that since they are part of the government,” said Mavhenyengwa.

The minister, Ezra Chadzamira, was out of office at the time of writing and his mobile phone was unreachable.

The Bikita Minerals head of department for human resources and administration, Lui Rui, said the company’s recruitment system was designed to protect locals.

However, he added, it was not company policy to outsource recruitment to anybody.

“We just try to protect the interests of the locals but we don’t have such a policy (of outsourcing agents,” said Lui.

The public relations and corporate social responsibility officer, Collen Nikisa, confirmed that his company consulted the local leadership when recruiting workers.

He said Bikita Minerals had set aside 80 percent of its workforce for locals, a figure that Chief Marozva also stated.

“Our employment policy currently is that we recruit 80 percent from the local community. This can be verified from our employment registers.

“At present we employ 910 and our contractors employ an additional 1400,” said Nikisi.

“The HR department advertises vacancies which are open to all locals and non-locals. The CSR committee works with the local community leadership to identify vulnerable families and job applicants in need of employment.

“The shortlisted candidates are then subjected to rigorous interviews, which are fair and transparent. We even invite the local gatekeepers to attend some of our selection processes as witnesses. This can be verified with our local community leadership, the chief and councillors in particular,” he added.

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