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Politicised mining sector puts workers at high risk



CIVIL society organisations say the politicisation and securitisation of the mining sector are subjecting mine workers to dangerous working conditions, poor wages, unfair labour contracts and human rights abuses.


 A large number of Zimbabwean mine workers are receiving low remuneration and benefits despite mining companies pocketing huge profits. A joint statement by natural resource watchdog, Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) and the Zimbabwe Diamond Allied Mine Workers’ Union (Zdamwu), says the lack of will to address the concerns of workers by the government and mining companies had short-changed labourers.

“The slave wages being paid to diamond mine workers in Zimbabwe create serious challenges for those concerned with responsible sourcing.

“Such extreme exploitation of labour is one of the key reasons why stakeholders are pushing the Kimberley Process to review the definition of conflict diamonds so as to include diamonds mined under inhuman and unfair labour conditions,” reads part of the report.

“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. Statutory bodies such as the National Social Security Agency (Nssa) and National Employment Council (NEC) have been ineffective in addressing these grievances largely due to the politicisation and securitisation of the mining sector.”

According to the report, diamond workers have been earning wages that are below the poverty threshold.

 “Until the recent strike, the lowest-paid Anjin Investment employee was earning US$180. Now, Anjin has the lowest remuneration among the diamond mining companies, with the lowest-paid employee earning US$355 (65% USD and 35% ZWL),” the report reads.

“This is despite the fact that diamonds are sold hundred percent in United States dollars. 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 US$400.”

Other diamond mining companies have resorted to paying NEC minimum salaries of US$350, while demands for a living wage are being resisted. CNRG and Zdamwu have also criticised the government’s failure to reinvest profits into mining companies, which has fulfilled the resource curse.

“The situation in the villages where diamonds are mined is worse than it was before the diamonds were discovered. Infrastructure such as roads, clinics and schools are in an advanced state of dilapidation,” the report says.

“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.

“There is need for a master plan of 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 income-generating projects.

“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 the roads. Consequently, public transport to places like Marange is now too expensive due to the condition of the roads, caused by mining.”

 Other mining companies have also been implicated for having no occupational safety, health, and environmental standards, jeopardising the health and safety of employees.

“In Hwange, several workers have been seriously injured at work due to poor safety standards,” the report says.

“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. At Blanket Mine, women are forced to wear overalls instead of work suits.”

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