By Locadia Mavhudzi
Women small-scale miners in Zvishavane have said the prolonged Covid-19 lockdown was stifling their efforts to penetrate the male dominated industry.
During the ongoing lockdown period, mining claims owned by women have become major targets of unlawful invasion by some unscrupulous mining counterparts popularly known as Magombiro resulting in theft and vandalism of mining equipment.
As the nation is grappling through a level 4 lockdown period characterized by restricted movements and curfew to protect the people from Covid19, Zvishavane women miners are counting losses as their workplaces are being invaded, equipment stolen and mine pegging’s shifted in their absence.
A member of the Zvishavane Women Miners, Tsitsi Matumba said female miners were being defrauded of their gold or chrome at both mining sites and milling sites by both the millers and their own workers.
“We are suffering a double blow as Covid 19 situation itself has degenerated our energies while those Magombiro are taking advantage of our absence to invade our mines,” she said.
“Our mining machinery is being vandalized in our absence and in worst cases mineral ore stolen.
“Also, when we take our ores to the milling sites, we are facing challenges as millers use their own prices to buy our chrome, they also use their weighbridge scaling rates, assay reports are exclusively done by the millers and we strongly feel defrauded in that regard.
“Under normal circumstances there must be transparency but the millers are monopolizing the process.”
Matumba said inequalities at mineral processing plants and washing plants were evoked by monopolies as there are only two Chinese milling plants available for the whole Zvishavane and Mberengwa small scale mining communities.
“We are heavily dependent on just two Chinese owned chrome milling centers where we queue to have our ore processed,” she said.
“This long queue is another window for us as women to be duped of our unprocessed ore by our own workers.
“We appeal that the Government should avail more milling stations to avoid the long wait that we currently go through.”
Nomalanga Dube of Shurugwi Miners Association also echoed the same sentiments saying women were harassed and abused at all stages of the mining process.
She said women were taken advantage of by men who were involved in the licensing process, by strangers in the bush during prospecting, by men who want to muscle in on their mines and by police who request sexual favors to look the other way over mining violations.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation ZMF spokesperson Dosman Mangisi said the small-scale mining sector had become the dominant gold producer in the country, overtaking established mining companies in the last few years.
“We recognise the contribution of female miners towards gold production at national level hence we continue to advocate to Government to avail targeted mechanisation support to the female miners,” he said.
Mukasiri Sibanda of the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) said there was need to avail financial support to the women miners in Zimbabwe as they were lagging behind in terms of machinery.
Women miners are finding it difficult to penetrate fully into the lucrative industry.
Their challenges revolve around societal opinions on gender equality, exploitation, lack of financial capital, equipment and tools, legal and policy restrictions and lack of adequate support from the government.
In an era where Zimbabwean women in their numbers are getting relevant training in the mining sector, adequate support is needed.