THE government has been admonished for its lack of action in addressing the increasing number of employees dying and getting injured while on duty in mining workplaces across the country.
The Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), Zimbabwe Diamond Allied Mine Workers’ Union (ZDAMWU) and the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA) have called upon the government and regulatory authorities to attend to the matter without fear, favour and prejudice.
In a joint statement on 8 December, the organisations said: “The rising number of employee fatalities and injuries occurring in mining areas is alarming. These incidents not only result in the loss of valuable human lives but also inflict immeasurable pain and suffering on affected workers, their families, friends, and communities.”
According to the State of Mining Industry Survey 2023 report recently released by the Chamber of Mines, there are 110 accidents which caused 120 fatalities in mining workplaces between January and September 2023.
In addition, 92% of the accidents under review occurred underground.
On the other hand, large-scale operations contributed 18% of the total accidents.
Painful deaths of miners have been recorded in Penhalonga where Zanu PF gold baron Pedzai “Scott” Sakupwanya is mining at Redwing Mine, just outside Mutare.
At that mine, the government has on several times been accused of allowing impunity to reign by failing to put its foot down in holding accountable Sakupwanya and his company BetterBrands.
CNRG, ACT-SA and ZDAMWU said they have also noted labour injustices in some of the cases.
“We observe that, more often than not, mine workers who get injured at work get fired without compensating them for their injuries which sometimes constitute permanent disabilities. More disturbing are allegations that the line ministries and other regulatory authorities give a blind eye to these accidents, and the lack of sanctions leads to an escalation since those responsible enjoy impunity,” they said.
“In keeping with the above, urgent action must be taken to address this growing crisis and ensure that every worker enjoys the right to a safe and healthy working environment. It is crucial to recognise that the safety and well-being of employees should be a top priority for both employers and the government. While some progress has been made in improving workplace safety standards, it is evident that more needs to be done to prevent these avoidable tragedies.”
CNRG, ZDAMWU, and ACT-SA urged the relevant line ministries — the ministry of Mines and Mining Development, the ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, the Environmental Management Authority (Ema) and mining companies to take note of their recommendations.
They recommended the strengthening of regulatory frameworks and enforcement of stringent safety standards across the mining sector.
This includes conducting regular inspections, providing comprehensive training programmes, and ensuring that companies adhere to the necessary safety protocols.
The organisations said efforts should also be made to enhance the capacity of labour unions and worker representatives to effectively advocate for the rights and safety of employees.
“Furthermore, we urge employers to prioritise the implementation of robust safety measures within their organisations. This includes conducting thorough risk assessments, providing adequate safety equipment, fostering a culture of safety awareness, and empowering employees to report any concerns or hazards they encounter,” reads part of the joint statement.
The three organisations also said the government must conduct thorough investigations into each employee fatality and/or injury to determine the root causes and hold accountable those responsible for negligence or non-compliance with safety regulations and highlight the importance of transparency, accountability and disclosure for preventing future incidents.
“Collaboration between governments, employers, workers, and relevant stakeholders is paramount to addressing this alarming trend. We encourage the formation of partnerships and information-sharing platforms to expedite the implementation of effective safety strategies and best practices,” reads the statement, adding that the government must:
“Facilitate the compensation of all those injured at work as well as compensating the families of all those who would have died during the course and scope of executing their mining duties and responsibilities. Deal without fear or favour with acts of corruption involving some line ministries, regulatory authorities and mining companies that compromise the enforcement of existing legal and policy frameworks against mining activities that put workers at risk.”
In a bid to support these efforts, ZDAMWU, CNRG and ACT-SAs aid they remain committed to promoting workplace safety, anti-corruption and advocating for the rights of employees in Zimbabwe.
“We will continue to actively engage with relevant stakeholders to ensure a safer working environment for all. We believe that by collectively addressing this issue, we can bring about meaningful change and prevent further loss of life. The time for action is now, and we stand ready to collaborate with the government, mining companies and workers to safeguard the lives and well-being of mine employees in Zimbabwe,” concludes the Press statement.