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Union forced out of May Day celebrations in Zimbabwe

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3 May, 2024Five trade unionists from the Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union (ZDAMWU) were threatened and chased away at gun point by more than 20 thugs, while they were setting up for the Workers Day celebrations at a stadium at Bikita Minerals on 1 May. 

According to ZDAMWU, an IndustriALL affiliate who organizes in the diamond and mining sectors, the union’s tent was destroyed. Further, one of the unionist’s mobile phones was forcibly taken from her after a brief abduction where she was dragged to a car by thugs who are known in the area. She underwent a humiliating body search, and her phone was smashed into pieces. 

“It was a sad Workers Day for ZDAMWU. As a union we have been fighting harassment, long working hours, and corruption by some managers who ask for bribes for workers contracts to be renewed. Additionally, sexual harassment is rampant at Bikita Minerals,” 

said Justice Chinhema, ZDAMWU general secretary who believes that the attack is meant to intimidate the union.

“Law enforcement agencies must investigate this intimidation and protect workers' rights that are in the country’s constitution and labour laws. Mineworkers in Zimbabwe have a right to freedom of association and assembly and should not carry their activities in fear,” 

said Glen Mpufane IndustriALL director for mining.

Trade unions have raised concerns at the International Labour Conference on violations of International Labour Organization conventions in Zimbabwe especially Convention 87 on freedom of association and the protection of the rights to organize, and Convention 98 on the right to organize and collective bargaining.
On environmental, social and governance (ESG), local communities have raised concerns and said that although the ESG guidelines exist on paper, Sinomine never applies them. For example, the villagers say their source of water for drinking, market gardening, and livestock has been polluted by toxic chemicals as evidenced by the death of fish and aquatic life at Matezva Dam. Further, communities have lost fields and land to the mining company due to opening of new mining sites, road construction and the building of power lines. Some of the displaced villagers say they never received compensation from Sinomine.

ZDAMWU, which has 672 members at the mine, made a report to the police and will write to the ministry of labour to protest how the union officials were treated at Bikita Minerals.
Bikita Minerals, which is owned by China’s Sinomine Resource Group, is the largest lithium mine in Zimbabwe which is Africa’s largest producer of lithium ore. Lithium is one of the critical minerals required for the transition to renewable energy sources. Lithium is used in the manufacturing of rechargeable batteries for mobile phones, computers, and electric vehicles. Other minerals mined at Bikita Minerals include petalite which is used in ceramic and glass manufacturing.