School children add voice to Shabanie- Mashaba Mine revival


Children from Zvishavane have taken up the issue of the comatose Shabanie-Mashaba Mines Holdings (SMM) with President Robert Mugabe and his co-principals in the inclusive government saying it should be revived.
The government took over SMM from business tycoon Mutumwa Mawere in 2004 and appointed an administrator under the Reconstruction Act, but failed to keep the operation going.
The children charged last week that the bickering and mismanagement that had brought SMM to its knees was costing them their livelihood and future as many had dropped out of school because their parents who were employed by the mine were now unemployed.
President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara were jolted out of their complacency by a child parliamentarian from Zvishavane, the junior Governor for Midlands Province Leornard Mazhomba, demanded that government to take action to save the lives of 8 000 children whose future was now bleak.
The wrangles and subsequent collapse of the mine were infringing on the children’s rights to access to education and health services, he said.
During the official opening of the 18th Session of the Junior Parliament in Harare last Wednesday the junior legislator called on the government to assist the mine, which he said employed most adults in Zvishavane.
“We have a mine employing parents of about 8 000 school-going children in Zvishavane, but the mine has stopped functioning and children are dropping out of schools,” Mazhomba said.
Most dropouts ended up in illegal mining activities, he said.
“Children are not willing to engage in these illegal activities, but they are forced by circumstances around them to do so,” he said.
SMM Holdings is a subsidiary of Africa Associated Mines which has been placed under curatorship.
The company employs about 3 100 people. The Minister of Mines and Energy, Obert Mpofu, and his deputy, Murisi Zwizwai were absent at the event where ministers are afforded an opportunity to respond to the issues raised by the children.
A fortnight ago the committee on Mines and Energy blasted the SMM curator, Arafas Gwaradzimba, for failing to pay employees salaries for more than a year.
“When we went there we saw an artisan break down in tears. She said her mother managed to send her to school but she is failing to take her own kids to school,” chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines Edward Chindori Chininga said.
“The issue is one is able to raise $2 million to go and pay for shares in the United Kingdom and that money has not been repatriated, yet no money is being raised to deal with issues to do with people on the ground,” he said.
Mawere, the self-exiled businessman has for years been trying to reclaim SMM which was seized from him when he fled the country after police wanted to arrest him for allegedly externalising funds.
His company was subsequently put under curatorship and the businessman specified.
He was recently despecified, but Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa quickly warned that if Mawere dared step foot in Zimbabwe, he would be arrested and charged.
Senior Zanu PF and government officials linked to the Mawere empire-grab have failed to run the company and unless huge capital investment came in, the mine would become history despite its high-quality asbestos deposits.
SMM still has 17 years of proven asbestos resources underground.
Finance director of the mine, Brusel Chirashi, said the mine was capable of producing over 70 million tonnes of fibre this year, but there was just no working capital. Shabanie is reputably one of the best asbestos producers in Africa. It has its major markets in the United States of America, Britain, Angola, Nigeria, Zambia, Mozambique, India, Iran, United Arab Emirates, China, Indonesia and other countries.
But in 2009, the mine recorded a loss of $18,6 million. This manifested itself in the accumulation of bills owed to employees, creditors and equipment that can no longer be serviced.
Shabanie produces arguably the best chrysolite fibre in the world and has a current urgent order of 200 000 tonnes of the fibre which it is sitting on because it is producing nothing.
The 200 000-tonne order could rack in $105 million, enough to resurrect Shabanie, sources said.
Chirashi said their customers were willing to take the fibre at any cost.
He said India was in a position to give lines of credit to the mine, but no bank was willing to discount credit advanced.