MAC: Mines and Communities

Zimbabwe: Following massive coal disaster, relatives face abject poverty

Published by MAC on 2019-08-06
Source: Centre for Natural Resource Governance (2019-08-06)

Nearly 50 years of victim neglect

Remebering women's struggles against destructive emining

Centre for Natural Resource Governance

6 August 2019

In 1972, disaster struck the coal mining town of Hwange killing 427
workers following an underground explosion at the No.2 Colliery, also
known as Kamandama Mine which was part of the Hwange Colliery Company
Limited.

Killed during the disaster were men who left behind their families –
wives and children – who depended on them. 47 years later, the widows of
the victims of the Kamandama mine disaster live in neglect and abject
poverty.

Following the death of their husbands, the widows were forced out of
colliery houses to pave way for new workers and their families. Many who
had no relatives in town moved to rural areas in Jambezi, Makwa and
Milonga communal lands.

At the commemorations to remember women’s struggles against destructive
mining, convened by Centre for Natural Resource Governance and Greater
Hwange Residents Trust, with the support from Open Society Initiative
for Southern Africa, the surviving widows said they are only remembered
once per year, in June, when the mining town will be commemorating the
Kamandama mine disaster.

“I think no one remembers us throughout the year. The company and
government only remember us in June. That is when they give us small
groceries,” one widow Anna Phiri said.

Another widow, Regina Sibanda said their population has dwindled as most
widows have died due to lack of access to better health care and starvation.

“Not many of us are left now. The majority have died. We hear sad
stories of how our fellows die as a result of failure to access better
healthcare. Since the death of our husbands, life has been difficult. We
had medical aid when they were working, but that ended with the
tragedy,” she said adding that it would have been better if the company
considered resuscitating their medical aid benefits considering that
their husbands died in line of duty.

The widows said before independence, the company used to give them
living allowances and the payment continued for a short time after
independence before being stopped.

“We got monthly living allowances for a few years after independence and
then payments were discontinued. Hwange Colliery Company Limited started
looking for us in 2007. Right now we are getting $50 per month and we
are told it’s from NSSA [National Social Security Authority],” said Grace Mwene.

The widows called on the government and Hwange Colliery Company to
compensate them and also ensure they get improved access to health care.

Following the Kamandama disaster, the Rhodesian government’s President
Clifford Dupont set up the Wankie Disaster Relief Fund. However, Hwange
Colliery Company Limited could not explain the status of the relief fund
when asked for a comment by CNRG.

The widows said as a precondition to benefit from the relief fund, they
were not allowed to re-marry and as a result, the majority of them
remained single.

“The conditions of the relief fund did not allow us to re-marry. Those
who re-married were struck off even though they had children with the
mine disaster victims,” said Estelle Ndlovu adding that in some
instances, if there were rumours that one is dating another man, the
colonial administrators at the mine would call the widow for interrogation.

The widows wrote a petition to be presented to the Hwange Colliery
Company Limited, Parliament of Zimbabwe, the Gender Commission and the
President of Zimbabwe, His Excellency Emmerson Mnangagwa asking for
compensation for the loss of their husbands and health insurance.

CNRG position

Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) calls on the government of
Zimbabwe which is the majority shareholder in Hwange Colliery Company
Limited to compensate the widows of Kamandama Mine disaster victims.

These men died working for the country and are in a way, Zimbabwe’s
economic heroes. The company and government also have to consider
providing decent housing in the villages for the surviving spouses who
were forced out of company houses following the death of their husbands

 

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