Senators from the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Indigenisation and Empowerment on Thursday quizzed one of the companies mining granite in Mutoko over reports of the death of 66 workers.
Managing director of Natural Stone Export Company David Van Breda was asked to explain the working conditions and how the company ploughed back into the community in which it extracted granite.
The committee, chaired by Chimanimani Senator Monica Mutsvangwa, was told among a litany of other accusations that during a visit to Mutoko by the committee, the community had disclosed that they were underpaid and made to use heavy machinery, which resulted in some of the workers breaking their backs.
Van Breda however refuted the allegations and said the people that had spoken to the committee members comprised of former workers who were disgruntled because they had been fired and had lied about the mining company.
Non-constituency Senator Morgan Komichi said during a tour by the committee in Mutoko, some of the workers alleged they incurred back injuries whilst using heavy machinery, a situation which had rendered them useless even in their bedrooms.
“Many young men told the committee that they were now spineless and dysfunctional in their bedrooms. Their womenfolk also confirmed this was true,” said Komichi.
Van Breda denied the allegations and said only six employees had been recorded dead due to work-related accidents and said his company was involved in a lot of community help projects and had taken safety measures to ensure employees were not harmed.He said last year the natural stone turnover for his company was a gross of $7 million.
Speaking to the same committee yesterday, the chief executive officer of the Mutoko Rural District Council, Peter Sigauke, said the multinational companies extracting black granite were not giving back to the community.
He said as a result, the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development and the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) would soon introduce weigh-bridges in Mutoko to ensure black granite did not leave the country without certificates.
“The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development and the MMCZ wants to put a weigh-bridge in Mutoko so that no stone will leave Zimbabwe without a certificate,” said Sigauke.
“There has been bad blood between the rural district council and the quarry operators in that they want to pay only 40 cents per tonne, whereas the council demands that they pay $1 per tonne, which translates to $1 000 per unit,” he said.
Sigauke castigated quarry operators mining in the area and said they were not providing meaningful developmental assistance to the Mutoko community and never consulted the rural district council whenever they wanted to embark on corporate social responsibility programmes.