11 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Health Time-Bomb Ticking At Renco Mine

Photo: Rio Zim
Renco mine in Zimbabwe

Masvingo — Over 5 000 people at Renco Mine in Nyajena communal lands are sitting on a health time bomb as the gold mining settlement has been without running water for the past two weeks, forcing residents to use the bush to relieve themselves and to drink from unprotected sources.

Suburbs in the mining settlement have not been receiving running water for the past two weeks after water treatment chemicals ran out, while the pumps that used to supply water are in need of repair.

Water that supplies the gold mining settlement is pumped from the nearby Mutirikwi River and is conveyed into storage tanks where it is treated before transmission to households.

But for the past two weeks, the mine has not had water supplies, forcing residents to use the bush to relieve themselves and also drink water from unprotected sources.

Mrs Anna Kwenda from the Renco Mine compound said last week that the situation at the mining settlement was bad.

The residents now fear an outbreak of diseases.

"We are sitting on a health time bomb because over the past two weeks we have not been getting running water in our homes and the situation is now bad that we are now being forced to relieve ourselves in the bush as we cannot use our toilets due to lack of water," said Mrs Kwenda.

"We are in a real crisis because our taps are dry."

Another Renco Mine resident, Mrs Elizabeth Kufonya, said: "We now fear that there might be an outbreak of diseases because of water woes that have been affecting us for the past two weeks.

"We are now drinking contaminated water because of lack of choice, things are really bad."

Some of the Renco Mine residents were walking for several kilometres to Mutirikwi River where they do their laundry and bathing.

Renco Mine manager Mr Cyprian Kachisa attributed the water shortage to lack of water treatment chemicals becasue the mine had no funds to buy some.

"We have a water shortage also because there is need for funds to repair the pumps that supply water," he said.

"Most of the water conveyance pipes are in a state of disrepair and they need to be replaced, but there is no money to do that and we don't have money to procure the water treatment chemicals."

Renco mine, the largest gold producer in Masvingo, plunged into a crisis early last month after wives of workers at the mine staged a demonstration against the mine owners over poor working conditions and low salaries.

Since then, the women have been vowing to continue blocking Rio-Zim officials, who own the mine, from accessing Renco Mine until their grievances were addressed.

Mine officials accuse Masvingo South legislator Cde Walter Mzembi and his Chivi South counterpart Cde Ivene Dzingirai of interfering with the operations of the mine by allegedly inciting the workers' wives and villagers to demonstrae.

The officials has since approached the High Court to bar the two law markers from allegedly interfering with the mine operations.

The High Court reserved judgement on the application last week.

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