By Farai Matiashe

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s much-hyped rehabilitation of Mbare flats is proving to be hot air after the company contracted by government and the Harare City Council to do the rehabilitation, FCG Singapore, ceased operations a month ago, NewsDay has learnt.

The contractor is embroiled in a war with its workers who claim exploitation and that the company was deceiving government and Harare City Council that work was in progress, when everything was at a standstill.

Mnangagwa recently commissioned a newly-repainted block at Matapi Flats.

But the workers claim they are owed money by the contractor and work has since ceased soon after Mnangagwa’s visit amid pomp and fanfare.

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“We ceased painting in mid-May, there is no any activity here. There are no buckets of paint for us to use. The government is being deceived. Officials are sitting there in their offices thinking work is going on, but we are spending the whole day seated. There is no progress,” one of the employees said.

The workers claim they were made to work without protective clothes and have not been paid their salaries for April and May, adding they work without contracts.

NewsDay understands that FCG Singapore had employed about 20 people on site, 11 of whom are painters, while the rest are assistants.

“We told the manager that we have been in the construction industry for some time and it was a norm to have a contract agreement, which he denied us. We further asked him for our pay day and he promised that we would get our salaries every first day of the month. What we want now is just our money. We have families to look after,” he said.

When NewsDay visited Matapi Flats recently, there was no work going on.

A woman, who was employed to do the cleaning during the preparations for Mnangagwa, who wanted to commission the flats, said she had not been paid her money amounting to ZWL$100.

Another woman, who runs a food outlet in Mbare, told NewsDay that FCG Singapore owed her close to ZWL$300 and she was appealing to the company to pay her.

“I was the one providing meals for these employees. FCG Singapore has not paid me for nearly three weeks now and the money has been eroded by inflation currently ravaging the economy. I used to sell ZWL$3 a plate, but the amount has doubled up now. They have to pay me equivalent to today’s rates,” she said.

FCG Singapore chairperson Gabrielle Arezio told NewsDay that he would follow up with the company’s accounting department.

“I am following up on that matter. We were instructed to work on the plumbing systems. When the President visited Matapi Flats, he told us to repair the toilets and the bathrooms. These are in a bad state. We are currently sourcing materials. After that, we will continue with the exterior and interior paintings.”

FCG managing director Francis Mambo said the employees had not been paid for the month of May only.

“Everyone was paid for all these months, except for one month, which is May. People must also consider that it is charity work that we are doing and some companies do not pay for such, but we are paying,” he said.

“We were directed to concentrate more on the sewer systems. If you visit Matapi you can see that the exterior is beautiful but the sewage system is bad. It is bursting. So, we had to work on that. By next week we should be completing another block.”