THE Hwange community has been plunged into mourning following the sudden death of Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) managing director, Dr Charles Zinyemba.
He was 59.
Dr Zinyemba collapsed and died at his home in the mining town on Sunday morning and details leading to his death are still sketchy.
Announcing his death to workers in an internal memo, HCCL said: “It is with a heavy heart that we announce the death of our managing director Dr C Zinyemba. Dr Zinyemba passed away in the early hours of Sunday.
“Further information and funeral arrangements will be shared soon. In the meantime, the administration team joins the Zinyemba family, HCCL employees and the entire Hwange community to mourn a pillar in the company and community. May his soul rest in peace.”
A sombre atmosphere swept across Hwange yesterday as workers, business leaders and members of community paid tribute to the late HCCL managing director during a funeral service held at the Colliery Stadium.
Speaker after speaker praised Dr Zinyemba for his transformative dedication towards the company’s turnaround efforts. The company’s administrator, Mr Dale Sibanda, said Dr Zinyemba was a hard worker.
“We appointed him substantive managing director and since that appointment not one day did he disappoint. Dr Zinyemba has been with HCCL for over 10 years.
He knew and had an understanding of HCCL history,” he said.
“He understood clearly where we are now and saw clearly our vision for the future.
He was an integral part of the process to rebuild the company and provided vital guidance to the administration team.
He would use his vast knowledge to shepherd us away from retrogressive moves.”
In 2020, during a tour of Chaba Mine by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Dr Zinyemba told the President that HCCL was in a state of collapse at the start of administration in October 2018, as creditors were swooping on it through a string of litigations.
Workers had also gone for several months without pay.
Workers who spoke to Business Chronicle expressed shock over Dr Zinyemba’s death and paid tribute to his legacy.
“He was a good man who despite being a medical doctor steered the achievements that we are now experiencing at the colliery,” said Mr Wilfred Teera.
“The turnaround that is currently being experienced is because of his leadership and dedication.
He managed to bring in the equipment including boosting workers welfare.”
Another worker, Mrs Florence Mudenda, said Dr Zinyemba had workers’ wellbeing at heart.
“When the late Dr Zinyemba took the reins even in an acting capacity, changes began to be felt in the company especially amongst workers,” she said.
“One of his goals was workers’ welfare. For the first time after years, we began to get our salaries on time.
From using lorries to go to work he over a short period pushed the purchase of staff buses.”
Workers said Dr Zinyemba’s sudden death took them by surprise and said they will remember his positive impact on the business.
“His death has dealt a blow to his vision.
He was trying his best that we can’t deny,” said Mr Gerald Ndlovu, another worker.
Contacted for comment, Mines Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairman, Edmond Mkaratigwa, said during his tenure at the helm of HCCL, Dr Zinyemba steered the colliery firm to positive growth.
“We are saddened that we have lost a mining sector veteran and cadre who proved to have been managing to steward his staff and use the available resources to change the course of the ship to positive growth and profitability from negativity and losses,” he said.
“Such leadership was key for Hwange, which required innovation and maximisation in the backdrop of climate change impacts and governance frameworks discouraging its use globally.”
Mr Mkaratigwa said Dr Zinyemba had a listening ear and mastered the art of engaging as he cooperated with key stakeholders while being open to criticism.
Dr Zinyemba was a holder of an Executive Master of Business Administration Degree from the National University of Science and Technology (Nust), MBChB from the University of Zimbabwe and was a full member of the College of Primary Care Physicians of Zimbabwe and an Associate Member of the Institute of Directors of Zimbabwe.
The late Dr Zinyemba has a background in the military where he worked as a medical doctor before being employed by the colliery as its medical services manager.
He was appointed acting managing director in 2018 following the departure of Mr Thomas Makore and the subsequent placing of the company under administration.
Dr Zinyemba was confirmed as the coal mining company’s substantive managing director last year, a position he held to his untimely death. Burial details are yet to be disclosed.