BY VENERANDA LANGA/JAMES MUONWA
Most mining and agriculture sector workers are among the least-paid despite working under hazardous conditions that threaten their lives and health, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) has said.
Zela, in its Workers’ Day statement, said most mine workers were at risk of fatal accidents, citing the recent Battlefields mine disaster, where over 20 artisanal miners died in a mineshaft.
The environmental lawyers also cited cases of child labour, saying they were rampant in the farming sector.
Recently, companies like Anglo Platinum, Impala Platinum and Caledonia Mining Corporation awarded an 80% wage increase to their workers, which saw their salaries rising from a minimum wage of ZWL$262,32 to ZWL$468,58.
“Zela particularly bemoans the state of workers in the mining and agriculture sectors, which are our programming areas. Despite having one of the best Constitutions, the state of workers in Zimbabwe is disheartening and workers in the mining industry are currently the lowest paid despite the fact that this is an industry that is labour intensive and is highly risky and hazardous to health,” Zela said.
“It is a fact that most of these workers are being paid paltry salaries which have remained stagnant despite the price of most basic commodities having gone up more than 200% since January 2019. Several mining and agriculture industry workers are, therefore, living below the poverty datum line, which flies in the face of United Nations principles.”
Zela said some of the challenges that the mining and agriculture sector workers faced included non-payment of salaries, underpayment and unlawful dismissals.
“The Battlefields mine disaster is still fresh in the minds of many. The fatal disaster speaks volumes about the state of disaster preparedness in the country and safety and health of mine workers in the industry,” the environmental lawyers noted.
“Furthermore, Zela is concerned about child labour practices in the country, especially in the mining and agriculture industry. This situation should not be allowed to prevail because our Constitution provides for the protection of children’s rights and particularly condemns child labour.”
Government should implement and enforce labour laws to improve the rights of all workers, as well as to put in place legislative, judiciary and administrative and policy measures, Zela further noted.
Meanwhile, the Chinhoyi Municipality on Wednesday came under heavy criticism for allegedly blocking the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) from using Chinhoyi Stadium for the Workers’ Day commemorations.
ZCTU northern region secretary David Malunga told NewsDay that the council said the proposed venue for the Workers’ Day event was undergoing renovations, despite the fact that the same facility had previously been used for a Division Two league football match pitting council-run Chinhoyi Stars against Magunje Bombers, a Zimbabwe National Army side.
Malunga said the ZCTU applied to the local authority well on time, but were denied use of the venue on the pretext it was under refurbishment.
“The application was tendered through the housing directorate headed by Timothy Maregere, who told us in no uncertain terms that we could not use the stadium. He said the facility was under renovations, but the same was recently used for the Independence Day celebrations and a Zesa fire drill. Today (Wednesday) it was being used to host a football match. What we believe now is that the council has been captured. It is under Zanu PF command despite having MDC dominance,” he said.
For the past eight years, ZCTU has held the May Day event at Alaska, 20km outside Chinhoyi.
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