BY OWN CORRESPONDENT
The Nelson Chamisa-led MDC has criticised as lacklustre government response to the Battlefields disaster, where up to 50 miners are now feared to have drowned on Tuesday night at Cricket and Baxter mines near Battlefields in the Mashonaland West province.
By yesterday, the rescue teams were still struggling to drain water from tunnels and shafts at the two mines, with efforts to retrieve the bodies of the miners still to begin.
The MDC said the issue should be treated as a national disaster.
“The same attention the government placed on recent bus disasters must be accorded on the Battlefields disaster. And even more importantly was the number being referred to is an estimate,” MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume said.
“It is, therefore, imperative to take urgent rescue measures as there is a possibility to save lives. We have always raised our concerns on the effort the government places on ensuring the safety of artisanal miners.”
Mafume said the only time the government cared about miners is when they were taking away the gold and paying them in real-time gross settlement system or bond notes, “while they earned foreign currency and lined pockets of the elites”.
“The MDC is aware of the Zanu PF government’s attempt to make the sector a partisan sphere. This has prevented stakeholders to assist and the miners to form Unions which would have sought to address conditions and safety issues,” he said.
Mafume said in future, the safety of artisanal miners must be prioritised through the adoption of active policy measures.
Mashonaland West provincial administrator, Cecilia Chitiyo on Thursday appealed to mining companies and individuals with big pumps to assist with rescue efforts.