Ex-Hwange Colliery employees duped by bogus lawyer

More than 100 former Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) employees were duped over USD1 000 by a Harare man who was masquerading as a lawyer as they mounted efforts to take the company to court over outstanding pensions and terminal benefits.

The ex-workers claim that they are owed several thousands of dollars by the coal miner which have not been paid since the termination of their employment 6 years ago. In order to compel the company to pay them off the ex-workers have been holding onto the company houses arguing that it was their only leverage.

However, HCCL recently won a court challenge in which it wanted the former employees removed from its houses. The ex-workers have reportedly appealed the ruling after being given three months to vacate.

John Nyathi,  a representative of the affected former employees said it was during the time when they wanted to mount legal action against Colliery over the unpaid pensions and terminal benefits that they encountered Anotida Luke Bvumbe who claimed to be a lawyer and could assist them.

“We were connected to him in 2019 through a third party who claimed that he had won some cases for ex-Colliery employees. So he told us to pay membership fees of US$40 per individual claiming that his firm would go further to provide legal cover in the future to each person. He further demanded RTGS10 023 (equivalent to US$1000 at the time) for fuel and accommodation to come to Hwange and meet us. Out of 157 of us only 137 paid but he was in no show, ” said Nyathi.

He said Bvumbe proffered an excuse that the money sent had depreciated arguing that they had taken months to send through the required amount before making fresh demands.

“In 2020 he asked us to pay him US$1000 through his ABC bank account while some monies were also sent via Ecocash by those who could not get hard currency. However, between 2020-2021 he did not pitch up but said he was engaging the Colliery lawyer. He would give us what we now realise were phoney updates about the progress he was making yet in all this we had never met him in person save for telephone calls. It’s been 4 years now with no tangible results to show for what we paid him for.”

Nyathi said they did not carry out due diligence on Bvumbe’s Zimbabwe Legal Aid. 

“Due to the urgency in which we wanted legal representation and the fact that HCCL was exerting pressure on us to vacate we did not do due diligence.”

Lazarus Chipembere, another retiree said desperation to get their dues had made them vulnerable to swindling.

“This is a painful case and a double injury for the retirees who were seeking to exercise their rights. All we wanted from the Colliery was our terminal benefits. The amount of pain we went through for the company serving it for several decades only to be denied your entitlement,” said Chipembere.

He said the company was being cruel and inhumane by ordering them out of its houses without giving them their terminal benefits.

“It’s not that we don’t want to vacate the houses but we obtained a court order allowing us to stay put until the company paid our dues. We are now living in poverty as a result of delays in payment of what we are owed.”

A check by this publication of Bvumbe or his company which purportedly operates from number 10 Sariba court, Strataven in Glendale, Harare revealed that none are registered with the Zimbabwe Law Society (ZLS). All practising legal practitioners are required to be registered by ZLS in order to meet the requirements of practising law in Zimbabwe.

Bvumbe was not answering calls or messages sent to his mobile number.

The ex-workers numbering over 800 accuse the Colliery of reducing them to beggars. They also accuse the company of not paying them dividends from the shares they bought sometime in 2017 under the employee share option. They allege that the company has been mum over the issues while putting up a spirited fight to evict them.

A recent court order in favour of HCCL saw all ex-employees being given 3 months’ notice to vacate company houses. The former workers have, however, lodged an appeal at the High Court with the end of March being the deadline for evictions.

Meanwhile, Nyathi said given the developments his committee would take legal action against Bvumbe in an effort to recover their money.

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