Female miners battle corruption, bureaucracy

Government policies have failed to respond sufficiently to the needs of women, thus perpetuating gender inequality.

Chipo Chinozha.
Chipo Chinozha.

This is the find of the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ). In its study entitled “Beyond the Enclave: Towards a pro-poor and inclusive development strategy for Zimbabwe”, LEDRIZ established that many of Zimbabwe’s policy responses have been poorly implemented.

The reasons for this include lack of capacity, inadequate budget and poor infrastructure. “Economic strategies adopted since 1980 have failed to address the inherited enclave and dual structure of the economy, which has strong gender dimension, with women being particularly disadvantaged,” says the report.

The experience of Chipo Chinozha, 40, from Shamva in Mashonaland Central, bears out these findings. A female miner, whose employees are now permanent home defenders, Chinozha’s story is one of hope, joy and utter dejection.

Lifelong dream

She told The Zimbabwean that growing up in the mining town of Shamva, she always envisioned the day when she would own a mine. In 2009 she started working towards fulfilling her dream.

After securing a prospective mining license for $350, she engaged a pegger and verified with the Ministry of Lands that the claim was not occupied by another miner. She then registered her 70 hectare gold claim with the Mines Ministry for $200 per 10 hectares.

“After registering my land, I sought an Environmental Impact Assessment from the Environmental Management Agency, which incurred a separate cost of $310,” she said. She also sought the services of a land surveyor before approval to mine was granted.

“I parted with over $20,000 trying to legalise my operations and buy the equipment to start my operations,” she said.

Chinozha lamented the long winding processes that she had to go through. She only endured beasue of her determination to see her dream become a reality. Located in the area between Murehwa and Umpfurudze game park, she was finally given the go ahead to operate legally in 2011.

Stop!

Employing between 25 to 30 workers, Chinozha’s operations earned her an income of more than $4, 000 a month after operational expenses. But her joy was short lived. After mining for less than two years, she was instructed by the environment ministry to cease operations in October 2013.

“The reasons were not very clear because the communication we got was that we were being stopped together with Chinese miners who were engaged in alluvial gold panning because it was damaging the environment. We sought clarification on why we were also being stopped – as we were doing underground mining, but the ministry was not clear,” she said.

Despite the temporary ban, she had to pay her annual licence fees for 2014 totalling $6,040 to the mines ministry.

“I have tried engaging the environment ministry but we are just tossed from one person to the next. They are not clear on whether we should resume operations, because everything was being done above board,” said a dejected Chinozha.

In the meantime she continues to incur operational costs, including salaries for the workers and fees to the ministry. “The workers are taking me to the labour bodies and I have to pay them and yet I am not operating. Illegal gold miners are taking advantage of this and are mining in my area,” she said. “To make matters worse, I am losing my equipment – that is lying idle at the mine – to thieves.

Impetus for growth

Analysts predict that the mining sector has the potential to provide the impetus for the growth of Zimbabwe’s economy.

But findings by LEDRIZ have established that the primary weakness is that the country has operated for decades without a properly documented mining policy to guide the development of legislation, and regulate programmes and projects in this sector.

Mutuso Dhliwayo, the director of the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association, called for reforms in the mining sector to ensure good governance, transparency and accountability.

“The issuance of mining licenses should be transparent and the relevant ministries should work hand in glove to ensure transparency and accountability,” he said.

7,000 are women

According to Women in Mining (WIM), almost 7,000 of the 30,000 registered small-scale miners are women.

Sarudzai Washaya, director of The Zimbabwe Women Rural Development Trust, said women should ensure that they process their mining licences with the relevant ministries.

“Miners should properly formalise their operations and should not bribe government officials and take shortcuts in the registration of their mines. We encourage women miners to formalise their operations regardless of how long it takes or how expensive it is,” said Washaya.

She said her organisation empowered women through training to enable them become legal miners.

“We strive to end illegal mining and promote women’s participation in the sector,” she said, adding that it was important for women miners to ensure that they were up to date with their licence fees.

Financial muscle

“Timeframes are very important because when your papers are in order, you have the power to approach the courts and seek recourse,” she said. She said her organisation received reports from many women who were pushed out of mining by those with financial muscle.

“Bureaucracy is a challenge. Women are losing their mines because there are those in society with a lot of money and they are bribing government officials to claim ownership of women’s mines,” she said.

Washaya urged women to approach her organisation to get legal aid.

“We are working with the women’s ministry and we assist women by referring them to lawyers who can assist them so that they do not lose their mines,” she added.

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Post published in: News