COMMUNITIES located in the country’s mining areas are exposed to serious health risks and their problems have been exacerbated by the fact that the Mines and Minerals Act, due to its defective nature, has not been able to plug such loopholes.
BY MUNESU NYAKUDYA
Several mining companies have been accused of pumping raw sewage into rivers and consequently polluting the water used for domestic purposes.
Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) director, Farai Maguwu said there is need for an overhaul of the Mines and Minerals Act.
He said it was essential for the government to enact policies that benefit communities, where mining activities take place.
“I am disappointed that even the Minerals Amendment Bill that has been drafted by the permanent secretary is very corrupt in that it still retains a lot of power in him,” he said.
“They (Mines ministry) have complete disregard for the communities affected by the decisions they make in Harare.”
Maguwu said the ministry derived its powers from the Mines and Minerals Act, which he described as “a very big tutorial piece of legislation” that gave the Mines minister too much power.
He said it was disappointing that mining companies were not answerable to the communities, where they operated, but to a ministry that was far-removed from the community.
“That is why some of them are pumping raw sewage into rivers, where the communities are getting drinking water. Livestock and wildlife are dying. Talk of Chiadzwa, they are pumping raw sewage and sludge into Save River,” he said.
“Most of these permits are made in the name of special grants, which are basically decided by the permanent secretary and Parliament is not involved.”
A councillor in Mutasa South, who declined to be identified, said they were facing a lot of challenges due to high incidence of deaths among panners at the mining fields.
“There are no jobs in Mutasa South. So most men are illegal miners. The challenge is that a large number of men have been murdered in the process, leaving a lot of women to be widows with a lot of children to fend for,” she said
“There are also a lot of early child marriages and child pregnancies. Children are not finishing school and some do not even get married. They are just left alone to be single mothers at a very young age.”
She also said people were also dying due to sexual transmitted diseases, for instance HIV and Aids, propagated by these illegal miners.
“The environment for illegal mining is also not favourable for women. Sometimes we are chased by policemen with their dogs, and even if we try to go to the fields, we do not understand the language. So we decide not to go because it is fruitless, but back home, there will be nothing to eat,” she said.
“Men sometimes go into the mining fields naked, so it is hard for women to go and join in. Sometimes they also use foul language, which is not favourable for women.”
The Mutasa South council official said all this compromised women, who also needed to get money from the minerals to sustain their families, as a lot of them had been widowed.
“Sometimes men do not even bring their money, but finish it on commercial sex workers. This is bringing a lot of diseases in to the community. I feel that women should be given separate mines from men, so that we can also make ends meet,” she said, adding government should treat people equally despite the political parties they are affiliated to.
“They should not separate us according to political parties. They should mix us so we can be united because we are one nation, which depends on them,” she said.
Another councillor, from Darwendale under Chegutu district, said that they see a number of companies were opening in their areas, but they did not employ locals.
“Recently, another company opened and there were a whole lot of people, whom we didn’t even know where they were coming from. They do not even sense that in our communities there is no one who is employed and we would also rely on those resources,” she said.
“Sometimes we only get to know that there might be something going on when it is too late and we are also even made to relocate. What surprises me is that sometimes we would have been given the land through land reform and then after building and everything, they come and tell you that it is now a mine. After wasting so much resources, you are then told to relocate.”