Emotional send off for former HCCL MD Zinyemba
By Rutendo Mapfumo and Tichaona Mataruse
HUNDREDS of people from the coal-mining town bade farewell to Dr Charles Zinyemba, (60), the former Hwange Colliery Company Limited managing director, as his body lay in state at the Hwange Colliery Stadium on Tuesday morning before its final journey to Gweru for burial.
The coal miner’s workers, captains of industry and senior government officials and ordinary residents from around Hwange town filled the stadium to pay their last respects to Dr Zinyemba, who died suddenly last Sunday morning.
Nurses, miners and relatives of Dr Zinyemba led the funeral cortege into the stadium as hundreds of Hwange community members and other miners stood on the terraces to view Dr Zinyemba’s body before it was taken to his final resting place in Gweru.
Dr Zinyemba died on Sunday after a short illness with sources indicating that he was taken ill soon after arriving from a meeting on Saturday leading to his death in the early hours of Sunday.
Many within the Hwange community described Dr Zinyemba as a father figure who had development strategies to revive the company and bring back hope to the town’s population.
The HCCL workers’ representative, Benjamin Gandiwa, described Dr Zinyemba as a leader who had the interests of his workers at heart.
“I worked with Dr Zinyemba when he was an acting MD and when he became substantive. Hwange (HCCL) faced some challenges during the economic meltdown and the situation was so bad for the management and employees. It was that time when the employees were not getting paid their salaries. But as an able leader, he restored the good working conditions and considered the welfare of the employees uppermost,” said Gandiwa. “The company reached a stage when it failed to provide workers with protective clothing such as dust masks and overalls but Dr Zinyemba came through for us. Transport facilities were improved and he boosted the morale of workers.”
“When HCCL was finding it hard to pay its workers, Dr Zinyemba assured us that Rome was not built in a day, we would get there he would say. When he was the MD we started to receive salaries every month. We relied on contractors for mining equipment but Dr Zinyemba boosted the company through the provision of mining equipment of which some are yet to be commissioned. For Dr Zinyemba, I can safely use a biblical example of Moses who led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to Canaan, that’s what Dr did to the HCC workers. ”
Hwange ZANU (PF) district co-ordinating committee (DCC) chairperson, Matthew Muleya, described the death of Dr Zinyemba as a big loss to the Hwange community and its political circles.
“It’s a big loss for the ZANU (PF) party. He had managed to create a relationship between ZANU (PF) and the HCCL. We had planned meetings; we had scheduled a meeting for tomorrow (Wednesday 11 May) where we were supposed to talk about the welfare of the ex-colliery workers. He had promised to meet me tomorrow so that we strategies on the welfare of the ex-colliery workers,” said Muleya.
He said Dr Zinyemba had an open policy where he encouraged the party to engage his office whenever there were shortcomings.
“Our relationship between HCCL, the ZANU PF party was moving smoothly thanks to Dr Zinyemba, indeed we have lost a link to business opportunities that improved the lives of our people and the lives of the Hwange Community. We have lost a gallant son of the soil, a father, a mentor, a businessman; we have lost a giant in politics, health and administration. This is indeed a big blow to the community of Hwange.
Speaking on behalf of the HCCL administration, Engineer Dale Sibanda said the company and community had lost an iconic figure who was a pillar of strength.
“Dr Zinyemba has been with HCCL for over 10 years; he knew and had an understanding of HCCL history, understood clearly where we are now, saw clearly our vision for the future and was an integral part of the process to rebuild HCCL. The Doc provided vital guidance to the administration team and would use his vast knowledge to shepherd us away from retrogressive moves,” he said.
With his military background, Dr Zinyemba was disciplined and instilled discipline in others.
“He was a pleasure to work with, he was for the company, was for rebooting HCCL, was part of a vision to rebuild HCCL and once again, make it a proud and viable operation,” he said.
Dr Zinyemba, who is survived by his wife and three children, was laid to rest in Gweru on Wednesday.
He was born on December 14, 1962 and joined Hwange for the first time in November 1994 as a medical doctor up to 1999.
He briefly left the company and returned in December 2003 up to January 2004 as the local doctor.
Dr Zinyemba left again and rejoined in March 2011 as the medical services manager until he was appointed as acting MD, a position he held up to August 2021 when he was made substantive up to the time of his death.
He was a medical doctor who horned his management skills with an additional MBA qualification. From being a medical doctor to becoming the MD of a mining house spoke of his great capability to learn his local environment.