LINDA SOKO TEMBO writes
A 21-YEAR-OLD casual worker of Chembe district in Luapula Province died on the spot on Monday last week when a sugar cane harvester sliced him into pieces at Mansa Sugar Company.
The horrifying nature of Darius Mwewa’s death has shocked the close-knit community of the small border town, which welcomed the investment as a source of employment.
Chembe is on Zambia’s border with Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Luapula Commissioner of Police Elias Chushi said he had heard about the accident but that he was still waiting for a report from his officers in Chembe.
“I have heard about the accident, but I am still waiting for an official report from my men in Chembe,” Mr Chushi said.
Mr Mwewa’s sobbing mother, Eness Chilufya, told the Sun that she was not sure what had really happened.
Ms Chilufya said she had only been told that her son had slept while on duty and the sugar cane combine harvester sliced him into pieces.
“I am not sure of what happened really because I was only told that my son as usual reported for work in the early morning of Monday, but he slept while on duty, and the sugar cane harvester sliced him into pieces,” Ms Chilufya said.
Ms Chilufya said Mr Mwewa was her second son who was a casual worker at Mansa Sugar Company and appealed to Government to urgently investigate the accident before more lives were lost at the company.
“My son was working for Mansa Sugar in Chembe district as a casual worker. In the early morning of Monday he was sliced by a machine.
“We are not sure of what happened. We were just told that he slept while on duty and the machine that cuts sugarcane cut him into pieces. That is how he died,” she said.
Ms Chilufya appealed to Mansa Sugar to compensate the family as the man who had died had been the breadwinner.
Mansa Sugar general manager Rajesh Kumar described the accident and death of the employee as “very sad”.
Mr Kumar said the company had been working hard to ensure the workers were careful in the night but Mr Mwewa’s whole body from the waist was inside the cane and only the legs were outside.
“When the harvester came it just swallowed the legs,” he said.
Mr Kumar narrated that the workers reported for work at 22:00 hours and were supposed to work up to 06:00 hours the next day, which was their normal shift, and that while they were working one group of three decided that one should rest instead of all of them working at the same time.
“So this guy went and slept somewhere in the line of the harvester without others noticing and when the harvester came it sliced him because he was sleeping in the line of the harvester and the guy operating the combine harvester did not know that a guy was sleeping there,” he said
Mr Kumar said Mansa Sugar had about 350 workers working in the night and that the harvester and the truck moved together.
Chembe district administrative officer Godwin Katakwe said he did not have a lot of information concerning the death of Mr Mwewa but had heard about it.
“I heard about it on Monday when it happened. I do not have details because there are many stories. So l have to talk to the manager of Mansa Sugar,” he said.
Workers Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB) corporate affairs and customer services manager Maybin Nkholomba was saddened by the accident that happened at Mansa Sugar and said the deceased is supposed to be compensated for what happened.
“WCFCB will investigate the matter and find out exactly what happened because under such circumstances the dead are eligible to be compensated whether he was registered with WCFCB or not. In addition, whether Mansa Sugar was registered or not the man should be paid. It is his rights and if we find out that the company has not been complying with the Workers Compensation Act they will be penalised,” Mr Nkholomba said.
And some former workers at the same company complained that there was no proper care for workers and that it did not observe the labour laws of Zambia
One of the former workers, who asked not to be identified, said casual workers worked like slaves with paltry wages as little as as K400 or less per month.
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