EASTERN NEWS | Female artisanal miners suffer loss of dignity

MUTARE - Female artisanal miners in Penhalonga have revealed that they are forced to share information on their monthly periods or when they have vaginal bleeding to male counterparts as they would have to stay away from their gold claims.

Beliefs in Mutasa prohibit women from getting into gold mines during their monthly periods.

But this has been a compromise position as their integration in artisanal gold mining operations in Penhalonga is being resisted by superstitious men.

“We now hire some helpers to stand in for us when we are not around,” Jessica Masamvu told the Eastern News.

She said locals believe that mermaids own the gold and would make it disappear from a mine that a woman in her periods would have entered.

Wadzanayi Chimhepo, a development economist who also studied the impact of the practice, said this has resulted in women being forced to survive on “golden crumbs that fall from the table, while men feast on the golden cake”.

Even Chimhepo was turned away from a mine in the area that she intended to observe during her research as menstrual flows are considered a curse in this part of the world.

Another local artisanal miner only identified as Sande said they are often allowed to access the mines because they are deemed to be respectful of the need to stay away if they are unclean.

Previously, they were not even allowed anywhere near mining activities.

As Chimhepo writes in her research paper titled “Women and Mining: A Case of Golden Crumbs”, even wives, in some extreme incidents, are not allowed to touch any tool that is used in gold mining even if it were in the home.

One of her interviewees said “it was not possible for women to touch the tools or to get too close to the gold mill — even though the tools were right under her roof”!

Centre for Natural Resource Governance director and human rights defender Farai Maguwu said his organisation was working on dispelling the superstitious belief.

“Unfortunately, some of these things take time to completely deal with but we are making progress,” Maguwu said.

He said his organisation was identifying and programming around removing any hindrances to the full participation of women in mining.

Maguwu blamed the continued alienation of women from gold mining activities to limited information provision.

“Thousands of women in Penhalonga have been denied equal access to mining as an option at their disposal because of such beliefs and, as an organisation, we need to continue chipping away such beliefs right from the local traditional leaders to male artisanal miners,” Maguwu said.

The seemingly irrational beliefs are, however, not only limited to artisanal miners as even large scale miners are often compelled by traditional leaders in their areas of operation to perform various rituals to aid the smooth running of their operations.

Failure to adhere to the traditional beliefs and customs is said to have led to freak accidents and poor mineral yields.



‘Mutare infrastructure discriminatory’

MUTARE is an old city — and as expected — needs to be reworked to the sensitivities of the modern world.

It is no wonder that wheelchair-bound citizens do not feel at home in a city they consider home as they are kept out by its primitive staircases.

Everything, from the roads, public toilets, markets, bars, churches, shops to public offices, is discriminatory against people with disability.

A wheelchair-bound resident who needs to have an audience with the mayor will have to do so outside Mutare’s civic centre — and this sets the tone for a city that was built without any consideration for people living with disability.

Right from the doorway into the civic centre, its stairs — either going down into the banking hall or up to the health department, town clerk and mayor’s offices — one has to be carried in and out and up any of the three-story building that does not have even a single elevator.

“People on wheel chairs will park by the door and ask security to either pay bills or invite officials outside,” Clemence Dzobo, a resident, said.

Even the government complex is not any friendly with those on wheelchairs only having access to the ground floor.

The elevator at the building has not functioned for years and he has to meet wheelchair-bound visitors on the street.

“Teachers with disability wait on the street and ask the   to go up and invite him down and out of the building,” National Council of Disabled Persons of Zimbabwe (NCDPZ) secretary Chamunorwa Ringisai-Dube said.

Ringisai-Dube feels confined, not only to his wheelchair, but to small sections of the city.

“Only Main Street has ramps that will allow someone on a wheelchair to manoeuvre. The rest of the city is not navigable.

“The Mutare Magistrates’ Courts, both civil and criminal, Moffat Hall, shops, the Charge Office, National Social Security Authority Building, DA’s Office, all public toilets in the city are inaccessible,” a miffed Ringisai-Dube said.

He said he had to be carried into a building that houses a local radio station despite the organisation having carried out renovations recently.

“I had to be carried inside. Imagine an old man like me being carried around where they could easily have placed a ramp,” Ringisai-Dube said.

The NCDPZ executive member said even structures being built after the enactment of the Disability Act of 1992 which promotes accessibility of all public buildings are also inaccessible.

“We have quite a number of buildings that were built after 1992 whose plans were approved by council despite not being accessible,” Ringisai-Dube said.

“Organisations representing people with disabilities have been engaging government for years trying to enforce the Disability Act with not much success,” a person with disability said on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation.

Director of Freedom to the Disabled Persons of Zimbabwe Wallace Mupfumira is, however, optimistic that there will be a breakthrough soon.

“We have been getting optimistic responses from council and government officials on some of our concerns and I’m sure it’s a matter of time before everything is resolved,” Mupfumira said.

Ringisai-Dube said while people with disability are openly discriminated at bars and night clubs or places of entertainment like local stadia, they were also equally being discriminated by churches.

“Those who run entertainment centres somehow feel we belong with the churches but interestingly, you see a lot of stairs in churches such that we cannot access them either and in the end we feel like we don’t belong anywhere,” Ringisai-Dube said.



Council in road repair blitz

MUTARE City Council has embarked on a blitz to complete a combined 13 kilometres of repairs and upgrades of major dirt roads using a $1,3 million Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) emergency works fund budget before the onset of the rainy season.

Council said it picked the different stretches of roads across the city because of their strategic importance to the city with residents impressed by the choice of roads being repaired.

Dangamvura will see Blessing Makunike Road being upgraded to a tarred road while Jeff Road in Chikanga is also being upgraded as well as a stretch of Magamba Drive.

Resealing of Aerodrome Road and Herbert Chitepo Street is also expected to be completed by November 30.

Council has already procured all the raw materials for use in the project, which is being carried out by Forit Contractors.

The project — initially scheduled to be completed by December 15 — has been moved forward because of the impending rains.

“We were looking at major roads with impact — those that were causing a lot of inconveniences to huge sections of the city,” acting roads engineer Daniel Nyerenda said of the choice of the roads.

Ward 18 Councillor Kudakwashe Chisango — whose area is benefiting from the road works — gave credit to unity in the chambers for picking up the areas of greatest need.

“Our unity as councillors is the reason why this road (Blessing Makunike Road) is being attended to after many years of lobbying.

“We sat down as councillors to decide on the roads to give priority to,” Chisango said.

Elizabeth Murwira, a Dangamvura Area 16 resident, said the community was grateful to their councilor — Chisango — and new town clerk Joshua Maligwa for the road works.

“The challenge with roads is now a thing of the past and we are grateful for the work being done by our councilor and town clerk,” Murwira said.

Her sentiments were echoed by Florence Nyamhunga, another Area 16 resident.

“We are happy with the development and very soon we will be spoilt for choice with transport as more vehicles will be passing through our area,” Nyamhunga said.

Clearly, after witnessing years of sustained deterioration of road infrastructure that had rendered many roads completely inaccessible in the mountainous city, the ongoing road works have excited the entire city.



New Curriculum takes its toll on pupils

THE new curriculum — introduced at the beginning of this year — is already taking its toll on pupils as they inundate key institutions in the city seeking to interview staff as part of their “projects”, raising the ire of the often overworked employees.

The pupils, who have become a nuisance, are now being turned away from thinly-staffed but critical institutions in the eastern border city that they visit in an uncoordinated fashion.

Mutare mayor Tatenda Nhamarare said he has also been kept busy attending to pupils.

“It’s like this almost every day and when they leave, another group comes in,” Nhamarare said as he opened a boardroom packed with students. He dictated a few notes, having left them waiting as he attended a meeting before telling them to go and have their notes stamped and signed by his secretary.

At the city clinic, students now compete with patients for the nurses’ attention.

“These children are becoming a real nuisance. We can’t handle them anymore,” a miffed nurse said this week.

“We are taking our complaints up with our superiors because I think the ministry of education should do something to make sure that there is sanity in the way they are implementing the new syllabus,” the nurse, who preferred anonymity, added.

Residents have also expressed concern over the safety of the girl child as they are exposed to sexual predators in workplaces they visit without their teachers.

James Matsito, a social commentator, said there was a huge risk that young girls could be easy prey.

“There are many workplaces that are not safe for even professional women protected by company policies and laws, let alone for young girls who just walk in and out without supervision,” Matsito said.

The Muslim community in Mutare has cried foul over the violation of its traditions, potentially straining relations as they are poorly briefed on how to approach some institutions.

“We were shocked to see some skimpily-dressed young ladies in a section of the Dangamvura mosque where women are not allowed to take selfies.

“Our religion also has very strict rules of engagement between males and females that we hope schools would orient their pupils as they come so that everyone is comfortable but that does not seem to be the case,” a female member of the Muslim community said.

She said they were prepared to assist the pupils but preferred responding to enquiries through school authorities.

Several parents have also complained over the new curriculum’s impact on children’s moral conduct as young boys and girls have been spotted in the city’s red light districts looking for commercial sex workers to interview.

“I saw some children loitering near Moto-Moto, claiming they wanted to talk to prostitutes on the advantages and disadvantages of commercial sex work as part of their project and I was shocked.

“What kind of an education is that which does not consider the safety of these children? Even seasoned researchers will have trouble navigating some of these areas unscathed and we are throwing these children right at the deep end,” Memory Mudzingaidzwa said.

Manicaland provincial education director Edward Shumba said he could not comment as he was still on sick leave following a recent accident and referred enquiries to his deputy Clara Kanoerera, who said she was out of the office by the time of going to print.

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