|A discussion with 'illegal' gold miners |
in Runde District , early 2016
On Thursday 22 September 2016, the mining community and the nation at large received the sad news of the death of at least eight 'illegal' black miners following the collapse of Giles 18 Gold Mine in Concession, Mazowe District in the Mashonaland Central province of Zimbabwe.
The unfortunate death of the miners in an alleged gold rush, brings to question the vulgar nature of wealth distribution in Zimbabwe. The gold rush which was barely a week old attracted gold miners from many parts of the country. Ironically, the mine collapse which was a result of the gold rush occurred on the same week that the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy was conducting nationwide public hearings on the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill. The hearings were fertile with debates over the merits and demerits of a proposed Safety, Health and Rehabilitation Fund as well as calls for the formalisation of the so-called ‘illegal’ miners sector.
The Mazowe tragedy comes barely a month after an ‘illegal’ miner was gunned down in cold blood by security guards at Mettalon Gold owned Redwing Mine in Penhalonga in Manicaland Province.
These incidents expose a number of issues. Top amongst these is the exposure of the bad economic governance and incompetence of the present government. In such an environment, thousands of promising, healthy and strong young people just throw caution to the winds and risk their young lives panning for gold in the most dangerous of circumstances. With dangerously high levels of unemployment in the country, many people do not have the luxury of demanding safe working conditions. Furthermore, they do not even have the time to calculate risks before venturing into disused mines and even registered mine concessions to eke out livings from accessible gold that is scavenged either through the use of gold detectors or from the risky practice of digging at mine pillars; the latter practice also takes place at state-owned Sabi Gold Mine in Runde District in the Midlands Province.
|An excavator searches for trapped 'illegal' miners |
at Giles 18 Mine, Concession (The Herald)
The mine collapse and shooting of ‘illegal’ black miners highlight a racist and elitist sector which has never adequately opened up for the genuine empowerment of the local working class black populace. When the indigenisation and economic empowerment craze hit the nation, any illusion of genuine mass empowerment was shattered within a short space of time. The fruits of empowerment were merely transferred from a few whites to a few blacks who were already at the top of the political and economic food chain. This has perpetuated the suffering of the ordinary working class black in Zimbabwe.
Another case in point was the wave of mine workers’ family strikes that hit Vubachikwe Gold Mine in Gwanda. A hearing on the mine called by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, led by Hon. Justice Wadyajena unwittingly exposed that some top black lawyers in Harare were amongst the major shareholders of Duration Gold, the company behind Vubachikwe. This is heart-retching considering that such a mine had seen the suffering of the black mine workers as well as an arrogant reluctance to comply with even basic progressive elements of environmental law and indigenisation and economic empowerment policy; the latter being evidenced by the refusal of Duration Gold to allocate a negligible part of mine profits to the development projects of the Gwanda Community Share Ownership Scheme.
There is need for genuine people-centred policies in the Zimbabwean gold mining sector. Otherwise politicking and lack of accountability will only lead to more unfortunate deaths, either at the hands of sadistic mine guards, environmental hazards such as the Giles 18 Mine collapse or via the self-centered economics of the new black political and economic elites.