27 August, 2020With more Covid-19 cases being reported in the mines, Zimbabwean unions are carrying out awareness campaigns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus amongst mineworkers.
As some of the ways to reduce the rising infections, the IndustriALL Global Union affiliates the Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union (ZDAMWU) and the National Union of Mineworkers of Zimbabwe are carrying out national awareness campaigns.
The campaigns include visits to mines to monitor employer compliance with Covid-19 prevention regulations and ensuring that workers have adequate personal protective equipment and suitable sanitation facilities. The campaigns also emphasize observing and maintaining social distance to and from work, and the provision of face masks and hand sanitizers to workers.
During the campaigns, ZDAMWU gave over 5,000 masks to its members. The union raised concerns over the lack of social distancing in transporting workers to and from work, and the testing of workers and their families in mine compounds to prevent community transmission of Covid-19.
However, ZDAMWU found out that there were disparities in compliance between the mining companies. The union visited Anglo American’s Unki Mine, How Mine, Hwange Colliery and others. Whilst large scale mining companies put adequate measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at the workplace, there were limited efforts to stop community transmissions in the mining compounds.
Some companies did not test workers as required by the Covid-19 regulations and others simply ignored the regulations. Artisanal and small-scale miners were also not following the regulations, with the workers living in appalling conditions.
Justice Chinhema, ZDAMWU general secretary says:
“As the coronavirus continues to spread in the mining industry, the union needs to make a radical approach in dealing with the pandemic to save lives and protect the safety and health of workers.”
Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa, says:
“Covid-19 continues to threaten workers health and safety in the mines, and we continue to call upon mining companies to follow Covid-19 protocols to prevent infections. We also want governments and employers to recognize Covid-19 as an occupational disease.”
The Covid-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe comes at a time when the country’s public health facilities are falling apart from years of neglect, are ill-equipped and sometimes have no medicines. There are cases of patients dying in car parks because hospitals cannot admit them, and frontline workers such as doctors and nurses have been on strike for months demanding living wages and adequate personal protective equipment. According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, on 26 August the country had recorded 6,521 positive cases, 4,961 recoveries and 179 deaths. Like most Sub Saharan African countries there are doubts that the figures are a true reflection of the pandemic in the country because of less testing being done.