The Center for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) says there is rampant abuse of rights of mineworkers who are carrying out their duties during the national lockdown period.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa exempted the mining sector from the lockdown and urged all mining companies to adhere to World Health Organisation regulations to protect their employees from contracting Coronavirus (COVID-19).
CNRG communications officer, Simiso Mlevu, in a statement, noted that not all mining companies are complying with the health and safety regulations, thereby exposing their workers to the pandemic.
“Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL), the country’s biggest coal mining company, only started providing masks to employees on Monday the 11th of May 2020. The workers at the company have not been screened too. SI 99 of 2020 stipulates that all business must operate from 8am to 3pm “except for good cause” that can be proved to law enforcement agents. However, all coal mining companies in Hwange are operating for more than the stipulated working hours,” said Mlevu.
“In Marange, employees are complaining about poor living conditions. An insider said they have been camped at the company premises since the lockdown started. About 40 people are forced to share one facility for eating, sleeping and bathing, thereby making it difficult to observe social distancing even after working hours. The company has also not provided masks which are mandatory under level 2 of the lockdown.”
Mlevu called on the government to convene a Tripartite Negotiating Forum to discuss the conduct of employers and their employees during the lockdown period.
She also urged the government to ensure that companies provide protective equipment for all workers despite rank or grade and to also enforce punitive measures on companies that defy regulatory and policy measures aimed at combating this emergency.
“These gaps have inevitably affected mining labour. Legislative frameworks regulating infectious diseases is ambiguous about the behaviour of employers in times of such crises. Government must take lessons from the lockdown to improve regulations and policies that are supposed to protect workers from injustice during emergency situations,” Mlevu said.