Zimbabwe: Protect Mine Workers From Coronavirus, Govt Urged

23 March 2020

Zimbabwe Allied and Diamond Workers Union (ZIDAWU) has appealed to government to upscale safety measures for diamond workers in the wake of confirmed coronavirus (COVID19) in Zimbabwe.

The union made the appeal in light of poor living conditions in the two operational diamonds mines Anjin and Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC).

In a statement released by secretary general Cosmus Sunguro, ZIDAWU said the mining sector has not prepared itself to handle the virus causing panic and despondency in the ranks of mine workers at Anjin who fear for their safety.

Anjin which recently started operations has over 150 employees, while ZCDC employs over a thousand workers, who are ferried to and from work using overloaded buses which poses serious health concerns said ZIDAWU.

President Ememrson Mnangagwa recently declared coronavirus a national disaster and banned gatherings of more than hundred people, a figure that could be breached in mines cautioned ZIDAWU.

"There is panic and despondency as workers at this Chinese mine quarried how safe were they from this disease, as the country engage the shock gear of bad news, very few have ever bothered to question about the safety of mine workers given the degree of shoddy preparedness in the extractive mining industry.

"Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamonds Company (ZCDC) for instance is employing more than 1000 workers which is ten times the numbers effectively banished, the same goes to recently re-opened Anjin employing over 150 workers at its mining site.

"Their situation becomes more complicated when one considers that company buses are used to ferry them to and from work, with standing passengers. This poses serious threat to their health given that Corona virus is easily transmitted under those conditions," read part of the statement.

ZIDAWU said accommodation is a legacy issue for mining companies in Chiadzwa, with previous companies and the new entrants failing to provide decent accommodation to its workers, with up dozens living in a room.

In ZCDC accommodation, grimly nicknamed barracks, one room houses up to seven workers which 'not only posing a danger to their health but stripping them of personal decency' said ZIDAWU.

The workers union said there is preferential treatment for Chinese nationals who are afforded decent accommodation at Anjin while local Zimbabwean workers are crowded in room in a breach of the Labour Act provisions racial discrimination.

"A recent visit to ZCDC 'barracks' revealed that more than 7 workers were staying in a single room. This poses a serious threat to their health and it strips off their personal decency.

"As for Anjin Diamond mine, the situation is different as their Chinese counterparts are offered decent accommodation while the black workers are crowded in rooms. Likewise, this poses health hazards to workers given the COVID 19 scare.

"Mining activities like drilling, blasting and rigging are known to be main causers of emission of dust during mining.

"In addition, adverse environmental conditions such as high temperatures and humidity, changes in atmospheric pressure, poor lighting, excessive noise and poor vibration, poor air quality, ionizing radiation and accumulation of dust and poisonous gases make mining one of the most dangerous occupation," said ZIDAWU.

Some of ZIDAWU's recommendations are for miners to provide adequate and proper personal protective clothing, to avail running water to all mining portals, holding of regular awareness campaigns to be conducted by companies and civic society organisations.

Miners were also urged to provide ablution facilities or Mobile toilets at all portals, ensure the availability of medication at workplace, and mandatory pre-employment and periodical medical examinations.

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