Lobels Biscuits Company in Bulawayo’s chief operations officer (COO) Andrew Dinhidza has been arrested over allegations he sexually attacked several female subordinates.
A source close to investigations said four women had since filed rape charges against Dinhidza.
According to the source one of the victims is a 29-year-old woman who is employed as a packer.
“Sometime in 2017 the 29-year-old woman went to look for a job at Lobels Biscuits Company at the time Dinhidza was the Human Resources Manager and he recruited her.
“After that he approached her demanding payment for employing her. At first she turned down his request, but he threatened to expel her, forcing her to give in and slept with him,” the source said.
The source added: “Sometime in October this year the woman said Dinhidza called her to his office and demanded to have sex with her and she did not resist because she was afraid of losing her job.”
The woman in question reported the rape incidents at Kumalo Police station after protests were recently staged against Dinhidza over allegations of nepotism and sexual harassment.
Another alleged rape victim is a 33-year-old woman who resides in Nkulumane suburb.
It is said the victim did not report for duty for two consecutive days, and when she reported for duty she informed her immediate supervisor who allegedly turned her away.
Lobels workers demonstrate outside the Belmont factory
“Being desperate for her job she approached Dinhidza who told her that if she wanted to save her job she must have sex with him and she agreed before they had sex in his office and her job was saved,” said the source.
The victim reported the alleged rape at Donnington Police Station on Tuesday this week.
Another victim, a 40-year-old woman from Entumbane suburb was allegedly sexually attacked by the boss when he called her to his office and asked her if she wanted to be employed permanently.
“He promised the complainant that if she wants to be employed as a permanent worker she has to sleep with him and she agreed before he drove to a lodge in the city centre and had sex with her.”
On another occasion they reportedly had sex in his car near the company premises.
To her disappointment Dinhidza reportedly never fulfilled his promise.
On 7 December the woman who joined a protest against all forms of abuse later filed a rape case against Dinhidza at Bulawayo Central Police Station.
The fourth victim is a 37-year-old woman who is employed as a machine operator.
She fell prey to the attacker after she approached him to have her husband who had been fired to be reinstated.
“She approached Dinhidza in his office and pleaded with him to have her husband re-hired but Dinhidza told her that he could only be reinstated on condition that she had sex with him and she bowed down to the demands and had sex with him. After that the victim’s husband was re-hired. On another occasion he picked her up at the company premises and had sex with her at a lodge.”
The woman reported the alleged rape cases at Donnington Police Station on 7 December 2022 leading to the arrest of Dinhidza who is now awaiting his day in court.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed his arrest.
“I can confirm that we received several reports that range from abuse of office and sexual abuse of females and one of the suspects who is accused of sexual abuse has been arrested and is helping police with investigations.”
President of Biscuits Manufacturing Industry Workers Union who is also Lobels Workers Union representative Moses Matupire said the strain between workers and the embattled COO emerged when they advocated for a Sexual Harassment Policy to be put in place but Dinhidza allegedly refused.
“As the workers we have noted with concern that there were many issues of sexual harassment which were happening in the company but they were going unreported as workers feared losing their jobs. We pushed for the sexual harassment policy to be in place but the COO was the stumbling block,” said Matupire.
He went on and said Dhinhidza was employing his relatives while turning a blind eye to the employees with proper qualifications for the job.
He said workers were also victimised after a robbery case that recently happened at the company, when money started to be deducted from their salaries.
“He deducted 15 percent from our salaries without notice. We work 12 hours without overtime and after that the workers are given US$140 per month.
“He decided to take the company out of the bakery sector to operate without a collective bargaining agreement. We complained to the National Employment Council (Nec) until a decision was made on 13 October to have the company reinstated as a bakery,” he said.
The alleged rape victims and about 496 aggrieved employees are being represented by their lawyers Task Vhiki and Mary Nyika of Macharaga Law Chambers.
Meanwhile, about 500 employees from the company were on Tuesday blocked by the police from staging a demonstration against Dinhidza, whom they accuse of many wrongdoings including sexual harassment, abuse of the office and nepotism.- B Metro