Politicians responsible for suffering of mine workers-ZDAMWU, CRNG


HARARE – The involvement of politicians in mining is the main cause of suffering and casualisation of labour in the industry, Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) and Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Mineral Workers Union (ZDAMWU) have said in a report released today (6/7/23).

The two organisations which issued a joint press statement today have made a clarion call upon government to rapidly address the plight of mine workers who they said are living in deplorable conditions.

The joint press statement which was signed by ZIDAMWU secretary general, Justice Chinhema and CRNG director, Farai Maguwu calls upon government and mining companies to address the poor working conditions and low wages earned by mine workers.

The organisations said mine workers are living in grinding poverty and work under deplorable conditions despite the billions of dollars earned in the sector by owners.

The statement pointed out that it is ironic that government has set a target of developing a US$12 billion mining industry by 2023, underscoring the significance of mining for the nation’s prosperity yet there is little for the workers who contribute to the realisation of the goal.

 The statement is premised on the diamond subsector which it says saw a staggering increase in production to 97.02% according to the Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines, 2021 report.

 The subsector is said to have witnessed a surge in output of 5.3 million carats by midyear yet the workers have nothing to show for the increase in production.

The statement says the vast array of laws in Zimbabwe that control the mining industry have so far fallen short of addressing the pressing problems mine workers face with the main problem being the involvement of senior politicians in the sector.

 “The active participation of senior politicians and security elites in mining is undermining the rights of workers by rendering laws and institutions ineffective thereby causing the massive casualisation of labour.

“While diamond mining companies are licensed to operate for longer periods ranging from 10–20 years, they are offering short-term contracts to most of their employees with only less than 20% of their workforce on a long-term contract basis,” reads part of the statement.

Recently Qatari owned Al Jazeera international media outlet premiered a documentary titled ‘The Gold Mafia’ in which senior government officials were implicated in the looting of Gold and money laundering in Zimbabwe.

The statement says there is concern over how companies hire workers on short-term contracts ranging from one month to three months which deprives workers of job security, and access to basic benefits like pension, medical aid, right to join a trade union and participate in trade union activities.

The statement says such employment practice intimidates and silences workers from demanding improved working conditions and their rights as enshrined in the country’s Labour Act and Constitution.

Mining companies are also being accused of intimidating workers who participate in workers’ committees or trade union activities by threatening them with termination of employment contracts and according to the statement the practice is more prevalent in Chinese-owned mines.

“Some employees are denied special leave days to attend Trade Union activities where they are capacitated to better represent others. This is a violation of Section 65(2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which clearly states that ‘every person has the right to form and join trade unions and employee or employer’s organizations of their choice, and to participate in the lawful activities of those unions and organizations,” the statement further says.

Some of the concerns the organisations noted include poor accommodation and lack of standard ablution facilities.

The workers, especially in the diamond sector live in dormitories which are not gender sensitive, where male and female employees are separated by doors.

 The statement says there have been reports of sexual harassment due to these living conditions at the workplace as the set-up is not family-friendly for employees to bring their spouses.

“At Anjin Investments the ablution facilities are an insult to human dignity whilst at Murowa Diamonds both males and females share the same accommodation facilities. In all the mines, workers stay at the mine compound for periods. Workers have complained of rampant sexual harassment perpetrated on female employees, especially at Anjin Investments and Murowa Diamonds,” the statement says.

The statement further notes that at Anjin Investments female employees are complaining of sexual harassment by Chinese nationals.

The Chinese nationals who do not bring their spouses to Zimbabwe and yet they spend periods of up to three years in the country without visiting their families in China are said to end up abusing Zimbabwean female employees.

“According to reports by employees at Anjin, the Chinese openly offer money to female employees in exchange for sexual favors. Some employees complained of being silenced with money or threats of dismissal if they threaten to report to the Police,” says the statement.

There are also complaints on the recruitment criteria in which the mining companies are accused of overlooking local communities when recruiting employees.

One such company is the Marange Diamond Company which is said to be highly skeptical of locals whom they accuse of stealing diamonds if employed.

The company is said to be bringing semi-skilled workers from China to take jobs which locals can do a phenomenon which is said to be rampant on all Chinese owned companies across the country.

The statement also said a growing number of Chinese employees do not have legal documents such as employment permits and use corruption to regularize their stay in the country.

 This development as the two organisations noted disadvantages Zimbabwe which has a highly skilled mining labour force and extremely high unemployment levels.

 At Murowa in particular the statement says they are even hiring manpower from Namibia to take up jobs that can be done by locals after the company terminated local workers’ contracts.

As if that is not enough, Diamond mine workers are said to earn wages that are below the poverty threshold with workers at Anjin Investment earning USD180.00 courtesy of a recent strike that prompted the hike

The company has been listed as the one with the lowest remuneration among the diamond mining companies with workers earning USD355.00 (65% USD and 35% ZWL). This is despite the fact that diamonds are sold in hard currency.

 Among the three diamond mining companies – Anjin, Murowa Diamonds and ZCDC, it is ZCDC which is offering the highest remuneration with the lowest earning around USD400.

The National Employment Council (NEC) threshold for mine workers is USD350 per month.

Diamond mining companies have resorted to paying NEC minimum salaries, and any attempts to demand a review are being resisted.

 This is regardless of the high value of diamonds and the role workers play to the high profits the companies are earning.

“Due to the low wages and short-term contracts, employee contributions to Mining Industry Pension Funds are insignificant. The slave wages being paid to diamond mine workers in Zimbabwe creates serious challenges for those concerned with responsible sourcing” the statement say.

The extreme exploitation of labour is said to have led stakeholders to push for the implementation of the Kimberley Process to review the definition of Conflict Diamonds so as to include diamonds mined under inhuman and unfair conditions.

The mining companies are also accused of not having occupational safety, health, and environmental standards which exposes the workers to unhealth and unsafe working conditions.

“In Hwange, several workers have been seriously injured at work due to poor safety standards. At coking companies in Hwange, employees are using surgical masks instead of dust masks to protect themselves from coal dust.

“In coking companies’ employees are supposed to wear heat-resistant personal protective clothing, particularly those working at the battery. However, most of the workers wear standard work suits and overalls which do not adequately protect them from the heat and at Blanket Mine women are forced to wear overalls instead of work suits” the statement alleges.

The report also cries foul over poor corporate social responsibility by the companies and says the situation in the villages where diamonds are mined is worse than it was before the diamonds were discovered.

“Infrastructures such as roads, clinics and schools are in an advanced state of dilapidation. Marange scores worse in terms of community development. The government has not reinvested diamond profits into the communities.

“Instead, the government and the mining companies in Marange are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into public relations and damage control,” says the statement.

The statement recommends that there is need for a master plan on how to reinvest some of the diamond profits into the community such as the construction of quality roads, upgrading the Marange Clinic, supplying clean water to the relocated families and start income-generating projects.

“Contrary to Section 13 of the Constitution which states that communities must directly benefit from their natural resources, very little benefits, if any, are accruing to mining communities in Zimbabwe. The concept of corporate social responsibility has largely been tokenistic.

Community roads are being further degraded by shunting trucks and yet there is no effort to upgrade them. Consequently, public transport to places like Marange is now too expensive due to the condition of the roads, caused by mining activities.

The statement further says ZDAMWU has engaged the relevant stakeholders such as the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, to no avail while statutory bodies such as NSSA and NEC have been ineffective in addressing these grievances largely due to the politicization and securitization of the mining sector.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button