By Nyasha Dube
Artisanal and small scale miners in Zvishavane and Mberengwa say they are on high COVID-19 alert, as they continue engaging in their operations during the 21-day national lockdown.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a 21-day lockdown in terms of Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020, to curb the spread of the deadly virus which has infected over a million people across the globe.
While most economic activities were suspended, small scale miners were partially exempted by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development to continue their operations.
The exemption came after miners appealed to remain productive during the shutdown, so they can pay their monthly debts as well as ensuring that equipment is well serviced and maintained.
In a statement by small scale miners’ representative body Zimbabwe Miners Federation, President Henrieta Rushwaya applied for the small scale miners to be recognised as essential services.
Mining Associations in the areas say they are aware of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact, and are working to ensure a safe environment for the miners.
Mberengwa Miners Association chairperson Anderson Tsikira said the association is working with the COVID-19 task team in the area to minimise illegal mining activities as this might spiral the spread of the virus.
“We also urge exempted miners to practice safety and precaution measures against the coronavirus at all times, so that the mines do not become hotspots,” said Tsikira.
Women in small scale mining also share the same sentiments as they say they are taking all measures necessary to make sure they operate in a safe environment.
Zvishavane Women in Mining Association secretary Sophie Takuva said they are enforcing measures against the spread of the corona virus.
“We have provided Personal Protective Equipment for the workers as well as limiting the number of miners who report for duty so as to minimise crowds and observe social distancing,” Takuva said.
Mberengwa District Development Coordinator and head of COVID-19 Taskforce in the area Ndeya Nyede says they are working with the mining associations to create awareness and impart miners with knowledge on how they can protect themselves.
“We also advise them to confine movements to their respective mines and avoid unnecessary movement as they may risk making their mines hotspots for the virus,” Nyede said.
Zvishavane and Mberengwa are concentrated small scale mining areas, where most miners often migrate from across the country and stay long at their mines without clean water and proper sanitation facilities, thereby exposing them to the virus.
The miners are often hardly concerned about health but are more worried about production, however, the group is usually most affected by diseases such as diarrhoeal related diseases.