The Herald (Harare)

7 June 2014

Zimbabwe: VP Mujuru Shows Softer Side

VICE President Joyce Mujuru moved a crowd to tears yesterday as she spoke about the plight of widows during the 42nd commemorations of the Kamandama Mine Disaster in Hwange.The event, held in memory of 427 miners who perished during an explosion on Monday, 6, 1972, evoked emotions -- and VP Mujuru charmed her way into the hearts of locals by addressing them in their Nyanja language for close to 25 minutes.

"We're grieving together. Being a widow is an experience that can't be understood by anyone who isn't a widow," said VP Mujuru, whose husband, Rtd General Solomon Mujuru, died in a horrendous fire incident at Ruzambo Farm in Beatrice in 2011 and was declared a national hero.

Dozens of widows in the crowd, and relatives of the mine disaster victims, wiped away tears as the Vice President spoke from the heart, having discarded a prepared speech.

Recently, VP Mujuru said just like other unions, her marriage to Rtd Gen Mujuru was not rosy, but they managed to spend 34 years together and were separated by death.

The VP's fluency in Nyanja appeared to have caught even her aides by surprise, and hundreds of locals sat in wonderment.

Chiefs Nekatambe, Hwange and Shana, who also attended the gathering, told of their pride at the Vice President's presence and empathy.

"It's rare for national leaders to behave and do what our Vice President has just done today. We're truly proud of her," said Chief Shana, giving a vote of thanks.

VP Mujuru also showed humility when she met representatives of the surviving widows soon after paying homage to the miners by laying a wreath and then hugging, individually, their widows.

VP Mujuru said the Kamandama tragedy cast a permanent shadow over the coal mining town and the nation at large.

"My being here today is in solidarity with this community. On behalf of our President, Cde Robert Mugabe, the Government, myself and the people of Zimbabwe, I've come here to indicate that we continue to share the same grief and sorrow with the local community at large, particularly the families of the victims of that mining disaster," she said.

VP Mujuru said after the disaster, an inquiry was carried out and the findings strongly recommended that the Government should take special interest in the safety of coal miners.

"I can confirm that the Government, working in collaboration with shareholders and boards of our mines will continue to set and force implementation of the highest safety standards for our coal mines," she said.

"We demand management and workers to realise that our core activities in coal mining and processing inherently impact on safety, health and the environment".

The Vice President acknowledged the challenges affecting Hwange Colliery Company and the delayed payment of about 3 000 of its workforce.

She said the issue was of great concern and would be addressed urgently as it impacts on the economy and the welfare of people.

"This calls for joint responsibility by all the stakeholders," said VP Mujuru.

She said the role of the coal mining giant in the economy could not be over emphasised.

Earlier, the secretary general of the Association of Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe, Joseph Midzi, called on the Government to declare June, 6 a national holiday.

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