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Illegal Miners in Zimbabwe Risk Lives to Search for Gold at Nugget Mine

Officials in Zimbabwe say the bodies of eight illegal miners have been retrieved from an abandoned gold mine about 50 kilometers north of Harare

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Illegal miners resting at Nugget Mine in Matopo district. VOA

Officials in Zimbabwe say the bodies of eight illegal miners have been retrieved from an abandoned gold mine about 50 kilometers north of Harare. The news Monday was a reminder of the risk faced by desperate illegal miners trying to make a living in the economically troubled southern African country. Matopo is a gold rich area in southern Zimbabwe, and some men there enter such mines, despite the danger involved.

These men are illegal miners, using a metal detector to search for gold at the Nugget Mine, about an hour’s drive from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city.

Piniel Ndingi-Nyoni is one of those who entered the mine, despite the recent collapse of a mine shaft that killed four men.

Ndingi-Nyoni says he has no choice but to take the risk.

“Problems at home force me to do this. We need school fees, you need food, there are medical bills to take care of, so all that force you to stay in the bush. It is not funny at all. In this cold weather, we sleep in shacks while the wife is at home. At times, we can go for three months without getting anything,” Ndingi-Nyoni said.

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Piniel Ndingi-Nyoni is one of the illegal miners at Nugget Mine in Matopo district. The mine recently collapsed and killed four men. VOA

A few minutes later, the illegal miners disappeared into the bush at the sight of officials in the area. Once the coast is clear, they re-appear.

No man gives up, is the motto 42-year-old Edward Madyauta lives by. He says he has gold rush dreams. But he says on several occasions, he has gone for months on a wild-goose chase.

What about fears of being trapped under, as what happened a few meters away?

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Polite Kambamura, Zimbabwe’s deputy minister of mines, said on May 17, 2019 that the government is worried about the trend and has embarked on a campaign to urge people to stay away from abandoned mines. VOA

“I do not fear death, because (I) usually get gold before depth gets past my height. So that can’t collapse on me. But those who go under have a higher risk of the shaft collapsing on them,” Madyauta explained.

On Monday, searchers found the bodies of eight men working an abandoned mine in Mazowe, north of the capital. It was the third fatal incident involving illegal miners this year.

illegal miners, mine
But with Zimbabwe’s economy in meltdown and no recovery in sight, one wonders if any of the miners, like Nyoni and Madyauta in Matopo, will listen to the advice. VOA

Polite Kambamura, deputy minister of mines, says the government is worried about the trend and has embarked on a campaign to urge people to stay away from abandoned mines.

​“We are going to call on owners of such mines to show cause why they are not mining. We are risking the lives of many people. If a mine stays for long without any activity, the ground will weaken up,” Kambamura said. “Some of those miners are going underground to mine on pillars. The moment they mine on pillars, then there is no more support and the ground will fall off.” (VOA)

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Zimbabwe Ends Its Interim Currency in New Currency Reform

This move is really beginning to restore full monetary policy

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Zimbabwe, Currency, Reform
FILE - People walk past the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe building in Harare, Zimbabwe, Feb. 25, 2019. VOA

Zimbabwe made its interim currency the country’s sole legal tender on Monday, ending a decade of dollarization and taking a another step towards relaunching the Zimbabwean dollar.

The central bank also hiked its overnight lending rate to 50% from 15% as a part of a set of measures to protect the RTGS dollar introduced in February.

“The march towards full currency reform is part of our transitional stabilization program,” Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said in a video posted on Twitter. “This move is really beginning to restore full monetary
policy.”

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced longtime leader Robert Mugabe after an army coup in November 2017, is trying to repair an economy ruined by hyperinflation and a long succession of failed economic interventions.

Zimbabwe, Currency, Reform
Zimbabwe made its interim currency the country’s sole legal tender on Monday. Pixabay

But a hoped-for economic turnaround is yet to materialize, and many Zimbabweans are distrustful of Mnangagwa’s promises.

Mnangagwa’s government last month agreed a staff-monitored program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) whereby the fund will help Zimbabwe implement coherent economic policies.

Analysts are skeptical that the latest currency reforms will be a quick fix for the deep problems that have constrained economic growth in the southern African country.

“Zimbabwe will have to show results before people are convinced,” said Jee-A Van Der Linde, an economist at South Africa-based NKC African Economics.

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Van Der Linde said banning the use of currencies such as the U.S. dollar and South African rand could create panic since Zimbabwe did not have large foreign-currency reserves to back the RTGS dollar.

There was nothing standing in the way of the Zimbabwean central bank printing money as it had done in the past, he added.

The central bank said in a statement on Monday that it had put in place letters of credit worth $330 million to secure imports for important goods such as fuel.

It would also try to boost liquidity on the interbank forex market by removing a cap on margins for banks and making sure that more than 50% of the foreign currency that Zimbabwean companies have to surrender ends up on the interbank market.

Zimbabwe, Currency, Reform
The central bank also hiked its overnight lending rate to 50% from 15% as a part of a set of measures. Pixabay

Zimbabwe abandoned its own dollar in 2009 after years of hyperinflation had destroyed trust in the local unit.

Mnangagwa said this month that Zimbabwe must reintroduce its own currency by the end of the year.

The IMF has said Zimbabwe should quickly allow the RTGS dollar to float freely, allow exporters to sell dollars at the interbank rate rather than surrender them to the central bank, and raise interest rates to curb inflation.

The RTGS dollar has been hitting new lows on the black market in recent days.

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It was trading between 11 and 12 against the U.S. dollar on the unofficial market on Monday versus a level of around 6 on the official interbank market.

Many Zimbabweans complain that goods and services are still priced in other currencies.

While more than 80% of Zimbabweans earn RTGS dollars, goods ranging from bricks to groceries have their prices pegged in U.S. dollars.

Inflation raced to 97.85% in May, eroding salaries and savings and causing Zimbabweans to fear a return to the hyperinflation era a decade ago. (VOA)