Mutare-Following the recent closure of Better Brands run Redwing mine in Penhalonga by Environmental Management Agency (EMA), civil society organizations and Penhalonga community have challenged owner prominent gold dealer and Zanu PF big wig Pedzisai ‘Scott” Sakupwanya to own up for the loss of artisanal miners’ lives and shoddy mining activities that took place at the mine.
According to a recent joint statement by Center for Research and Development (CRD), Penhalonga Youth Development and Ratepayers Trust and Ziva Community Empowerment Trust, around 100 artisanal miners lost their lives due to unsafe working conditions at Redwing Mine.
EMA presumably responded to the situation by closing the mine.
CRD Director James Mupfumi said government should conduct proper operations at Redwing Mine to determine standard working operations.
“Government should heed to our call to effect a ban on surface mining because operations were dangerous to human lives amid glaring evidence of tax evasion and mineral leakages. Our position is for government to ensure due diligence is undertaken to restore underground mining operations that are safe and conducive for Redwing Mine. We also expect parliament to hold them to account for the loss that has taken place at Redwing Mine,” said Mupfumi.
He added that Sakupwanya should not stand above the law following his defiance of EMA’s directive to close the mine.
“He cannot be bigger than government. The Penhalonga community has made a statement to government against Sakupwanya’s shoddy mining activities in line with the dictates of the constitution. It is expected of government to follow its own laws and ensure that he is held accountable. We are watching closely developments on the ground and we will soon approach government with new evidence,” added Mupfumi.
However efforts to get comment from the mine’s Human Resources manager identified as Dr Madhume were fruitless as he declined to shed light on the issue saying he ceased to be the company’s employee soon after its closure.
Penhalonga community members have called out for the attorney general in line with statutes of the constitution to investigate the deaths with diligence.
TellZim News got in touch with a Penhalonga resident who commented on the deaths of artisanal miners on the grounds of anonymity.
“Government has an obligation to balance business and human rights as enshrined in the constitution. Therefore the attorney general must ensure that those deaths are investigated in a transparent manner for responsible authorities to account,” said the source.
Zimbabwe Diamonds and Allied Workers Union (ZIDAWU) Chairperson Cosmos Sunguro told this publication that Redwing had a bad record of poorly remunerating workers adding the mine had become a danger zone due to shoddy mining activities and ‘militia mining’ shrouded in violence.
“Redwing Mine in Penhalonga should operate within the statutes of the law. Once the issue of safety and health is not adhered to, definitely they need to remain closed. As ZIDAWU, we hope that the company itself is going to take action on issues of workers’ welfare. There is also an issue of contractual obligations. The company needs to pay workers even when it’s under closure. It is also a cause of concern for ZIDAWU in terms of accidents. Recently we have had accidents surging, be it artisanal or formal miners. Government, stakeholders and trade unions need to up the scale in terms of training, awareness and workers safety,” said Sunguro.
Meanwhile, government has unveiled a US$ 10 million package to value add gold refinery sector.
Minister of Finance and Economic Development Mtuli Ncube said the money will be divided into two. US$ 5 million will effect construction of gold refinery point in Mt Darwin, Penhalonga, and two places in Matabeleland and Midlands while the other half will be loaned to artisanal miners.