Billian T Matambo, Zimbabwe Diamonds and Allied Workers Union (ZIDAWU)
Hopes shuttered, dreams wiped and a big drop bottom fall has become the tale of the life of Chiadzwa community and artisinal miners in the face of the national Covid induced lockdown. No one knows what tomorrow has in store as gloomy days lie ahead instead of the better days coming as once sung by the famous reggae musician Eric Donaldson.
Poverty and economic crisis are the only future the community and artisinal miners anticipate. No matter how we might deny it, as a community almost everyone benefit one way or the other in the artisenal mining value chain. The lockdown puts to halt all mining activities . We have been hard hit by lack of money,shortage of food and sky rocketing food and service prices. The closure of mining activities in line with social distancing policy and banning of social gatherings has also deprived us of our means of livelihood. Hence given the opportunity of weighing our concerns ,we thank the government for implementing lockdown mitigatory measure fast lest we regret like Italy or United States which are leading with highest figures of death toll worldwide due to corona virus .
The majority of the artisinal miners survive from hand to mouth using the meager earning from selling their gems and gold on the market which has also been suspended. This therefore means no earnings which ultimately culminates to starvation to them, their dependants and the community at large.Even though food is readily available in the retail outlets,the means of procurement is no readily available.Retailers have also taken advantage of the prevailing crisis to rub salt into the already dripping wounds of the suffering people. It is just ridiculous to buy a standard head of cabbage for between 2and 3 US dollars. Since this is the only meaningful vegetable available as potatoes and other nutritious vegetables has gone beyond the reach of many the only remaining vegetable substitute available is dried leaf vegetable (musoni/mufushwa).As if is not enough local retailers are ripping locals off by overcharging basic commodities by more than double the actual price, giving an example of a 2kg packet of sugar which is sold at $130-150 bond by local retailers against the $65 bond charged by supermarkets in town.
Most families have resorted to borrowing from their neighbors who are also hard hit due to the poor harvests caused by a bad rain season. It is also culturally not to worry your neighbors by being constantly at their doors borrowing without assisting them in another way. We believe in kandiro kanoenda kunobva kamwe principle.(We only appreciate receiving if we give others). So how do one expected to give when he/she have nothing in store to offer in return.
Some hard hit artsenal miners have resorted to the unethical way of robbing their neighbors resulting in them being branded the enemies of the community.There are those who had spared some extra cash anticipating a shorter lockdown period but the rumours ( fake news ) of extension of the period by an extra two weeks has further dampened their spirits.
The fear of an unknown future has also led artisenal miners to brave the wrath of the law enforcement agents by trying to enter their mining claims putting their lives at stake just for the sole reason of wanting to survive.Caught between the rock and the hard surface is the situation the whole community are in as we have to juggle between watching families starve,risk mining or exposing ourselves to Covid19 infested environment. Most artsernal miners consider the latter as a least risk as they need to fend for their families because they have nowhere to turn to for food aid and other means of survival.The promised social aid assistance by the powers that be has not yielded anything as they have been locked down amidst a bleak future.
As the community we still have to brave a stubborn environment in which we live with people who refuse to observe Covid 19 mitigatory measures of thorough hand washing and social distancing. People still gather for funerals greeting each other with open hands and public coughing further exposing themselves to Covid 19. Worse still most of us cannot afford sanitizers and even soap that is if we have running water within our reach. So in the event of the disease outbreak it justs spread like a veld fire.
We therefore call upon the welfare authorities to take appropriate action in alleviating this situation lest we a crisis amidst another crisis. We call for the avoidance of an Arabic proverb which says,”panicking during a calamity is another calamity. ” We can as a nation,CBOs and communities give life and gleamer of hope to the anxiety stricken mining communities and their Dependants. We also call for serious awareness campaigns on coronavirus impacts starting from our local leaders to the least individual in the community . Together as hand in glove I know we can make it.