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Zimbabwe: Zim bank workers protest over sexual harassment

Zimbabwe: Zim bank workers protest over sexual harassment

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Published: 19 December 2015

ZIMBABWE – Bank workers in Zimbabwe are demonstrating over alleged sexual harassment of a female journalist and subsequent dismissal of the workers’ committee chairperson at the local unit of Standard Chartered Bank.

The British-owned Standard Bank is among foreign banks in Zimbabwe that include Nedbank-owned MBCA, Barclays, Standard Bank Stanbic and Ecobank. Local banks have mostly been struggling in Zimbabwe leading to the recent collapse of financial institutions such as AfrAsia, Genesis Bank and Allied Bank among others.

Although the foreign-owned banks have shown stability and mostly managed to keep nonperforming loans below 5%, bank workers in the country held a demonstration against Standard Chartered’s unit in Zimbabwe.

The bank workers have also handed a petition to management at the company, complaining about senior management’s alleged sexual abuse of employees and victimisation of workers’ committee representatives.

“Mr Ralph (Watungwa, chief executive officer) and the rest of Standard Chartered Bank, take note that Samuel Mkozho, a workers’ committee chairperson and trade union member, was dismissed from your employ on allegations that were unsubstantiated and which exposed blatant victimisation for his role as a trade unionist and worker representative,” the Zimbabwe Allied and Bank Workers Union (ZIBAWU) said in the memo addressed to Watungwa.

There was no immediate response from Standard Chartered in Zimbabwe on Thursday, with spokesperson Lillian Hapanyengwi said to be out of office. However, ZIBAWU said in its petition that the dismissed workers’ committee chairperson at the bank had been fired for representing “a junior female employee who was subject to sexual harassment by one of your senior managerial officials”.

Interestingly, noted the Zimbabwean bank workers, the “criminal charge… was never reported to the police”. The petition further noted that “sexual harassment should be frowned upon by not only the bank itself, but also by the bank’s customers” and other stakeholders.

Most banks in Zimbabwe are struggling for liquidity to sustain operations and meet daily cash demand from depositors. Those owned by South Africa and other international groups are leaning on their parent companies for more financial muscle.

Analysts in Zimbabwe say the next few years could bring mergers and acquisitions in the Zimbabwean banking industry.

However, with the economy largely expected to worsen, the banking sector could be further hit by growing nonperforming loans and advances, which could lead to depressed income for financial institutions.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has projected 2.7% economic growth for Zimbabwe in 2016. The economy is expected to have grown by 1.5% this year, dragged down by persistently lower commodity prices and slowing productivity in other sectors.