Women miners more vulnerable to machete attacks 

Source: Women miners more vulnerable to machete attacks | The Herald 04 FEB, 2020

Women miners more vulnerable to machete attacks
Women miners have become more vulnerable to attacks by machete gangs

Enacy Mapakame Herald Business
Artisanal small scale women miners have been the hardest hit by the spate of violence in the sector recorded across the country, posing a threat to gold production output this year.

The country has experienced increasing cases of violence in the small scale mining sector by the machete gangs, who have been on a rampage attacking anyone they suspect of possessing gold or cash.

As a result of the increasing cases of violence, mines that belong to women and historically known to be doing well in gold production, have been easy targets, prompting them to halt production fearing for their lives.

Last year gold production from artisanal small scale miners went down 22 percent to 17 tonnes from 22 tonnes recorded in the previous year. Although Government is looking at increasing export earnings from the mining sector, the spate of violence in the sector has cut on hours of production from artisanal miners, which is likely going to further reduce annual output.

According to the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) the scourge of the violence will pose a threat to this year’s total gold production by artisanal miners, who now contribute the bulk of the yellow metal delivered to Fidelity Printers and Refiners.

ZMF chief executive Wellington Takavarasha, told Herald Finance and Business that three cases had been reported of women claims that were attacked in Gwanda.

“Women have become more vulnerable to this problem, although they are attacking everyone they suspect to have money,” he said by telephone.

“This has become a national issue but most women that have been attacked are those known to be doing big things, who are producing in Gwanda and Shurugwi and all those women that have been operationally sound.

“Those mines owned by women and known to be doing well historically have been targeted. We have about four cases, three in Gwanda for women with mills,” said Mr Takavarasha.

He added as an organisation, they had engaged with authorities to step up more efforts towards security for women artisanal miners as well as the whole sector.

One of the initiatives, he said, is to engage security companies to safeguard their operations in cases of attacks, while appeals have also been made to the School of Mines to come up with programmes specifically tackling women in mining issues. The attacks have not only been on miners but gold buyers too, further thwarting the smooth flow of business across the value chain.

“No one wants to go to an operation where there is risk of losing lives. Women have had it tough. Official buyers from Fidelity are also at risk because these machete gangs target them as well,” he said adding this was a threat to production output.

Mining is one of the sectors that underpins economic growth prospects this year and beyond 2030 when the country is expected to be an upper middle income economy.

Last year, artisanal miners accounted 63 percent of gold deliveries to Fidelity, as they continue to eclipse output from large scale gold producers, although this was slower than 2018.

Erratic power supplies, gold smuggling, poor policy environment and rampant violence were among the contributors to the decline.

In an interview, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) director Janet Zhou, said inequality gaps between men and women were too glaring to ignore.

This called for Government to put more efforts and initiatives that create equality in all sectors of the economy.  A starting point would be creating a safe business environment for women, adding the increasing cases of violence in mining were worrisome especially for female miners.

She said ZIMCODD together with other organisations such as the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) have been lobbying for safe space for women especially in artisanal mining.

“It is important for Government to acknowledge that the injustices in society are affecting women more and therefore the need to create an economy that looks at advancing women’s rights, to work and have equal access to opportunities in all sectors including mining without any prejudice,” she said in an interview on the sidelines of national dialogue on fighting inequality in Zimbabwe last week.

“The escalation of the violence in artisanal mining calls for urgency in curbing this issue.

“This has been going on for long and women suffer most whenever there is violence. The sector is now unsafe for women who are trying to make a living out of mining.

“It is also important to scale up regularisation of the sector,” she said.

Failure to address the inequalities, Mrs Zhou said, may hamper progress towards meeting the sustainable development goals in 2030.