BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
ZIMBABWE’S road to economic recovery is headed nowhere without the meaningful inclusion of youth, particularly in the extractive sector, child president Mukudzeiishe Madzivire has said.
Giving his keynote address yesterday at the ongoing Zimbabwe Alternative Mining Indaba in Bulawayo, Madzivire said there was need for youths to be included in the country’s economic activities for sustainable development.
“As Zimbabwe forges on in the long journey to economic regeneration, it has become incumbent on all interested parties to remember the opinions of the youths.
According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics’ Agency, 76.5% of people are below the age of 34. As such, the road to economic recovery is headed nowhere without the meaningful inclusion of youths, particularly in extractives industries,” he said.
Madzivire said for many years, employment in extractive industries was restricted to the fortunate, or not so fortunate few, but now it has become more open than ever before, with women actively participating.
“However, an increase in participation in the mining sector demands increased support from the government and all government departments. There is still a lot of work to be done. One such issue is that of child labour, that has become increasingly prevalent, particularly in extractive industries,” he said.
He said gold mining, salt mining and stone quarrying industries are among the major culprits in this matter, with Ghana, Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast, Zambia and most recently Zimbabwe.
“Child labour is a violation of a plethora of human rights, and it is an imperative that governmental and non-governmental organisations direct their combined efforts towards the resolution of this crime against humanity,” Madzivire said.
“It, however, begs the question of the rationale behind the participation of children in extractives. Poverty has taken a toll on the people of Zimbabwe and the world at large, and as a result, children are being forced prematurely into extractive industries.”
“Children’s hopes and dreams are cut short by poverty. These children inhale gold dust, absorb mercury into their blood streams and more often than not, die slow and painful deaths. Such is the fate of a child born into poverty. That child is a symbol of the oppressive nature of poverty, but more importantly, that child’s death is a testament to an ailing justice system,” he said.
Madzivire added that there was need to combine efforts in advocating for an accessible justice system for children, beginning with the signing and ratifying of regional and global charters and declarations such as the Minamata Convention on Mercury that Zimbabwe has still not ratified six years since its passing.
He bemoaned social ills and environmental crimes currently taking place in the mining sector, saying they were a threat to the country’s gross domestic product.
Madzivire also indicated that youths were more than ready to work with all institutions to build “a greater world, a world that we will one day be required to take over.”
He urged young people to defend their future.
“Climate change, environmental degradation, complacency and stigma in extractive industries threaten our future, and it is my wish that all young people, particularly in mining where stigma and stereotypes are extraordinarily prevalent, begin to ask questions and demand answers.
“We need child rights advocates who are children – children who fight for the rights of their brothers and sisters. Youths must demand their fair share of economic activity. Jobs should be created for women and youths in extractive industries and stigma should hold no place in such areas, so that Zimbabwe one day be the jewel of Africa again,” he said.