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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?

illegal miners, mine
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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Elephant Death Toll in Zimbabwe Rises to 200 Amid Severe Drought

He says animals including giraffe, buffalo and impala are also dying and the situation can improve only after rains return

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Zimbabwe, Elephants, Drought
FILE - A herd of elephants walk past a watering hole in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, Oct. 14, 2014. VOA

Zimbabwe’s parks agency says more than 200 elephants have died amid a severe drought, and a mass relocation of animals is planned to ease congestion.Zimbabwe

Spokesman Tinashe Farawo on Tuesday said at least 200 elephants have died in vast Hwange National Park alone since October and other parks are affected.

He says animals including giraffe, buffalo and impala are also dying and the situation can improve only after rains return.

Zimbabwe, Elephants, Drought
Spokesman Tinashe Farawo on Tuesday said at least 200 elephants have died in vast Hwange National Park alone since October and other parks are affected. Pixabay

Many animals are straying from Zimbabwe’s parks into nearby communities in search of food and water. The parks agency has said 33 people have died from conflict with animals this year alone.

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The agency says it plans to move 600 elephants, two prides of lions and other animals from the Save Valley Conservancy in the southeast to less congested parks. (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)

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Zimbabwe Faces Shortage of Antiretroviral Drugs

Chiedza Chiwashira is one the HIV-positive inmates. The 18-year-old says the shortage of ARVs is not a big problem, but the shortage of other drugs is

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zimbabwe, HIV, antiretroviral drugs
Chiedza Chiwashira, one the HIV-positive inmates at Chikurubi Maximum Prison hospital, in Harare, Zimbabwe, June 13, 2019, says the shortage of ARVs is not a big problem, but the 18-year-old says the shortage of drugs for opportunistic drugs is a problem. VOA

A top UNAIDS official is in Zimbabwe as the country faces a moderate shortage of the anti-retroviral drugs that stop the progress of the disease. The situation is bad for HIV-positive Zimbabweans, but worse for prisoners living with the virus who say they are struggling to get treatment for opportunistic infections.

Zimbabwe’s maximum security prison is overcrowded, officials say, and that is putting a strain on resources, including medicines for inmates who have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Chiedza Chiwashira is one the HIV-positive inmates. The 18-year-old says the shortage of ARVs is not a big problem, but the shortage of other drugs is.

“Even painkillers we do not have. So if those kids, children of inmates, fall sick there is nothing to give them. Officials are saying things are tough out there so there is nothing they can do. At least we have cotrimoxazole and other ARVs. But if we fall sick it will be a problem. We appeal to those at home or those who can help us with medical drugs and antibiotics as the prison hospital has just ARVs,” Chiwashira said.

Dr. Blessing Dhorobha, the head of the Chikurubi Maximum Prison hospital, says the National Pharmaceutical Company is keeping the facility supplied with ARV drugs for now, but acknowledges other drugs are a problem.

“In terms of other opportunistic infections; pneumonia, meningitis, we are in short supply of those drugs such anti-hypertensives, anti-diabetics,” he said. “We are normally supplied by NatPharm. If they do not have stocks, then they do not deliver.”

antiretroviral drugs, zimbabwe
Shannon Hader, the deputy executive director of UNAIDS, talks to senior Zimbabwe Prisons Services at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, June 13, 2019. VOA

Shannon Hader, the deputy executive director of UNAIDS, said she came to Zimbabwe to see how it is helping vulnerable groups such as prison inmates and sex workers.

Hader says Zimbabwe has a good track record on AIDS, noting that the country introduced a tax to help patients, known as the AIDS levy, back in the 1990s.

However, “… what got us to this point in response won’t necessarily get us to the next level because what’s left to do might be more complicated than what we did first,” she said. “So I think Zimbabwe has the capacity to really accelerate, to meet the 2020 goals to be a model of the response. But that will take doubling in the next 18 months, and filling some of these gaps particularly with people that are often left behind.”

antiretroviral drugs
Raymond Yekeye, the head of Zimbabwe’s National AIDS Council, blames the shortage of medications on Zimbabwe’s chronic shortage of foreign currency. VOA

Raymond Yekeye, the head of Zimbabwe’s National AIDS Council, blames the shortage of medications on Zimbabwe’s chronic shortage of foreign currency.

ALSO READ: Zimbabweans Seeking Medical Help Fall by 50 Percent With Economy, Many Turn to Herbal Treatments

“We do have the AIDS Levy and it is sufficient to cover the gap that we require. But we have not accessed the foreign currency that we require to import the medicines,” he said. The lack of foreign currency has also made the country unable to import basic needs like food and fuel.

Earlier this week, the country’s health minister said Harare has begun receiving drugs from countries such as India, which donated drugs worth $250,000. That might ease the problem of shortages for prisoners with HIV, who can’t work to buy medicine on their own. (VOA)