BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
THE Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union (ZDAMWU) has pleaded with government to temporarily shut down all mines in the country to allow testing of all workers following a spike in COVID-19 cases.
In a statement yesterday, ZDAMWU general-secretary Justice Chinhema said they were deeply concerned about the safety of their members in mining communities across the country.
He said there were reports indicating that a number of mines in the country had been hit by the COVID-19, with How Mine in Matabeleland South province reported to have 10 infections as of Sunday.
“In light of this, ZDAMWU is calling on the government to enforce a temporary shutdown of all mines to allow testing of all workers and everyone staying in compounds as well as carrying out proper disinfection against COVID-19 to safeguard workers and their families,” he said.
“Inasmuch as we are alive to the economic cost this has to the nation, lives matter ahead of profits.”
While wider consultations are being rolled out, Chinhema called on all mines to start putting in place adequate personal protective equipment for their “workers and families who stay in compounds as a matter of urgency, especially Chinese employers who do want at all and small-scale miners”.
He said it was sad to note that the government allowed mines to operate against their advice without putting strict measures to protect their workers at the onset of the lockdown in March this year.
“The union is also worried by the continued influx of imported cases, especially from Botswana and South Africa which has affected communities in the southern parts of the country as returnees are reported to be crossing the borders using undesignated points,” Chinhema said.
“We are calling on the government to move fast and curtail this crisis before it continues to spread in the mines which are closed communities,” he said.
He said the union would not hesitate to call on its members to be on high alert and immediately report to the union suspected cases of COVID-19 at their workplaces.
“We are closely monitoring the situation and if need be, we will not hesitate to direct our members to down tools to force these capitalist employers to respect and protect lives in mining communities ahead of profits,” he said.
Mining is a critical sector in Zimbabwe and one of the major earners of foreign currency for the country. However, with the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the sector is in distress.