HARARE - Two workers unions yesterday blasted government’s take over of all Zimbabwe’s diamond operations saying the move violates workers’ rights.
Mines minister Walter Chidakwa recently ordered all mining companies in Chiadzwa to stop mining but claimed government was not seizing the mines.
President Robert Mugabe has said his government was seizing the diamond operations because existing miners had robbed the country of its wealth.
The seizure has spawned an invasion of the diamond fields by gwejas (illegal panners), with security struggling to contain the deluge of illegal diggers, who have also pillaged property.
Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) and National Union of Mines, Quarry, Iron and Steel of Zimbabwe (NUMQISZ) said in a joint statement yesterday the government’s lack of due care and disregard to consult stakeholders was a slap on the face of the workers.
“Labour vehemently objects to the unilateralism demonstrated by government when it went about implementing its decision to shut down the mining operations of the corporates and the creation of an omnibus consolidated diamond mining company thus validating Cecil John Rhodes’ concept of consolidating diamond mining,” the joint statement said.
“Workers are not mere baggage that can just be shunted between one type of capitalist to another.
“In this forest of social Darwinism (free private and market economy), capital must never consider or downgrade labour to a level of prey because we are also most formidable predators.”
The unions said workers were keenly following the developments in the Chiadzwa diamond fields and are now hoping for their voice to be heard.
“At the time when government went public on the issue of taking over these companies and consolidating them into Rhodes-style consolidated diamond mining company, workers and their unions were owed substantial sums of money,” the unions said, adding they suspect that factional fights within the former liberation movement could be behind the seizure.
“Expressed differently, government replaced small informal miners ‘gwejas’ with corporate ‘gweja’,” the labour unions said.
“Now government is creating a consolidated ‘gweja’.”
Apart from seeking legal recourse, the workers said they were in consultation with the International Labour Organisation in a bid to recover their constitutionally-protected rights to wages and information.
The largest diamond mine in Marange, Mbada Diamonds, has sued the government at the High Court and has been reinstated to take care of its mining assets.
Chinese-run Anjin Investments has also challenged the government ban in court.
Zimbabwe was the eighth largest diamond producer in the world with 4,7 million carats in 2014, according to industry group Kimberly Process.