The Zimbabwe Diamond and Mineral Workers Union has learned with shock the deteriorating health condition of workers employed by Shabani Mine who are suspected to be suffering from asbestosis after long years working at the asbestos mine.
The union is calling for mine to facilitate a compulsory exit test for the affected workers by independent medical doctors without interference from the government and other stakeholders.
While the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) can be mandated to carry out such an exercise, its impartiality can be compromised since it is an interested party.
This, the union believes, will be the first step towards instituting litigation if proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the affected workers could have been poisoned by years of exposure to asbestos.
We are calling on the government, international labour bodies and other stakeholders to treat this issue as a matter of urgency because this act amounts to commercial genocide and those affected should be given some form of compensation as what happened in South Africa to former mineworkers who were employed during the Wenela period in the mining industry in that country.
The union is disturbed that most of the visibly sick workers, some of whom have retired to their rural homes have been living destitute lives without any meaningful source of income since the company fired 1800 workers in 2009 in unclear circumstances throwing hundreds of workers and their families into an uncertain future.
The mine which is under judicial management now employs a skeleton workforce of fewer than 350 workers.
It is disheartening to learn that some of the workers who are on unpaid leave are being evicted from the company houses after failing to pay rentals despite the company owning them huge amounts of money in unpaid salary arrears.
Those who have reached retirement years are now being treated as lodgers and this has created a social crisis and a humanitarian disaster for the desperate workers and their families.
The union also calls upon the Zimbabwe Mine Development Corporation to ensure that sanity prevails at the mine and that normal mining operations resume and jobs are restored.
In equal measure, ZDMWU is urging the Mine to stop evicting workers from the company houses until a lasting solution is found by all stakeholders to end an impending disaster that threatens lives and livelihoods for hundreds of workers in this dilapidated mining establishment.
As a last resort, the union will not hesitate to mobilise its members against all cruel acts of victimisation that might occur as a result of this move of seeking justice for the affected workers and those who have since passed on.
November 12, 2019