BY SINDISO DUBE
FEMALE miners have bemoaned the escalating violence in the mining sector and are calling on government to put in place measures that guarantee their security.
While government last year set in motion a process to regularise artisanal miners’ operations in recognition of their contribution to the economy, the sector has become more dangerous, moving around with weapons, including machetes, spears, swords and catapults, mostly in areas such as Kwekwe, Kadoma, Esigodini and Filabusi where gold is found.
Small-scale and artisanal miners across the country are also experiencing violent attacks and robbery from machete-wielding gangs. Last year, miners in Esigodini were involved in a three-day turf battles, which saw eight people injured and four hospitalised. Two gold barons and about 20 perpetrators were arrested for fuelling the mining claims battles.
Speaking at a workshop for Sustainable Mining in Zimbabwe, hosted by Transparency International Zimbabwe in Bulawayo, Nomuhle Ncube of Bubi Small- Scale Miners’ Association said women in mining were victims of violence.
“As women, we have been caught up in skirmishes that have taken the lives of many and injured others. We have experienced violent encounters with machete-wielding miners that have left others injured and also sexually abusing some women,” she said.
“We have women who have experienced violence in a bid to elbow them out of claims or to sabotage their operations and we think this is organised violence by big shots to frustrate vulnerable miners, especially women.”
Ncube called for support and protection from the police.
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“We ask the police to come to our help and protect us rather than being part of the violence and corrupt activities in mining. We have had situations where the police, which should be protecting us, are the ones asking bribes in the bush,” she said.
Nicola Hove, of Uhuru Gold Mine, echoed similar sentiments, saying women miners should be protected.
“We also need to be equipped with adequate safety clothing and workshops. We witnessed how miners were neglected in the Battlefield mines tragedy, where we saw miners coming out of a shaft wearing shorts and simple shoes. We should know that the important thing to come out of the mine is not the gold, but it’s the miner, who would have gone in first,” Hove said.