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March 21, 2009

Disgruntled Zimbabwean sugar cane estate workers burn fields

by Owen Chikari

At least 100 hectares under sugar cane went up in smoke when workers in Zimbabwe's Lowveld downed tools and set ablaze the mature crop to press for better salaries and the immediate dismissal of union leaders.

The workers are demanding payment in foreign currency. They say they want the lowest paid worker to earn US$130 a month. Following negotiations which were largely unfruitful the angry workers set the fields of mature sugar cane ablaze.

The workers also demanded the immediate dismissal of Admore Hwarare the self proclaimed president of the Zimbabwe Sugar Milling Industry Workers Union (ZISMIWU). They accuse him of failing to properly represent them and of abusing union funds.

Police in Chiredzi yesterday confirmed the incident. They said no arrests had been made so far.

“We are investigating a case in which workers in the sugar industry from Mkwasine, Hippo Valley and Triangle estates set on fire the mature crop”, said a police spokesman who requested anonymity. “We have not arrested anyone but investigations are continuing”.

Hwarare also confirmed the industrial action. “The workers set ablaze the crop because they were pressing management to act on the issue of salary increments”, he said.

Last year the disgruntled workers also set ablaze the mature crop to press for salary increments.

Meanwhile Hippo Valley and Triangle Limited have resumed sugar sales after briefly suspending them, citing low prices and demanding from government that the product be sold in foreign currency.

Given the current dollarisation of the country’s economy the two sugar milling giants have since been allowed to sale sugar in forex.

Before the dollarisation of the economy sugar prices were controlled by government and any price increases were supposed to be approved by the state.

The Zimbabwe Times

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