By Nhau Mangirazi
CHINHOYI– Zimbabwe Diamonds Workers Union (ZIDAWU) has castigated artisanal miners of exploitation and abuse of labour laws around the country.
ZIDAWU secretary general Justice Chinhema said he is shocked that artisanal miners within Filabusi district are among those abusing workers.
‘What irks us most is that Government has been pushing to empower small scale miners but worker rights are being violated. Our visits to both small scale and large-scale mines has exposed poor working conditions affected by little wages and environment degradation. Workers are not protected by statutory bodies on labour laws,’ he said.
He added that mine workers are overworked and underpaid.
‘Most workers are not registered with National Social Security Authority (NSSA) and overworked and underpaid. They work between 10 to 13 hours instead of stipulated 8 hours without overtime. Small-scale miners are suspects in abusing workers,’ he added.
Chinhema said mine workers lack knowledge on worker rights.
‘Indigenous Zimbabweans used to be artisanal miners do not know anything about labour laws,’ he added.
Finance minister Prof Mthuli Ncube bemoaned mining sector and loss of habitat that ‘remain the greatest threat to the country environment.
Presenting the 2019 budget Ncube said much as the economy benefits from artisanal miners, some of their operations are substantially contributing to ‘environmental degradation’
He added, ‘Unsustainable mining methods that are used by small scale and artisanal miners causing ‘damage to public infrastructure and in some cases violates rights of other land holders such as farmers.
Ncube said, ‘Without criminalising the small scale and artisanal miners, the 2019 budget seeks to embrace interventions to reduce environmental, social and health impact that arise from artisanal and small-scale mining operations.
However, Chinhema said Government must embrace Chinese as they are suspects in mining sector.
‘Chinese like artisanal miners but use heavy machinery. They must respect labour laws as they abuse and underpay. They forgo stipulated payments by bribing Government officials,’ said Chinhema.
He added, ‘Artisanal miners must be registered, regulated and educated on mining and worker rights as well as environment,’
Finance minister proposed Mining Loan Fund as a key funding tool to primary and small-scale producers to ‘embrace better and sustainable mining methods’
Ncube added that Government is engaging Fidelity Printers to come up with a ‘mechanism compelling recipients of loans to rehabilitate the environment.’
However, a Mhangura based miner Josphat Terera confirmed that artisinal miners have failed to access loans from Government hence failure to pay workers.
‘Generally, the economic challenges faced by everyone has not spared mining sector. We are facing cash crisis hence failure to pay workers on time,’ said Terera of Makonde district.
Chinhema said there is need for holistic approach to assist workers.
‘We hope Government will include all stakeholders so that we assist workers,’ he said.