Zimbabwe Authorities Urged To Amend Mines Act To Protect Human Settlements
By Wallace Mawire
Following a recent incident in Zimbabwe which resulted in the injury of at least 18 pupils when a classroom block at Globe and Phoenix Primary School in Kwekwe collapsed on 16 March 2023, the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) has issued a statement proffering government authorities to implement mechanisms to protect people’s lives.
One of the key recommendation proffered by the NGO is for the responsible government authorities to utilize ongoing efforts to amend the Mines and Minerals Act to strengthen the law so that it protects human settlements against destructive mining practices.
The Centre for Natural Resource Governance said that it learnt with profound shock and sadness that about 18 students were injured when a classroom block at Globe and Phoenix Primary School in Kwekwe collapsed on the 16th of March 2023.
According to the NGO, it is suspected the incident was triggered by underground mining activities.
CNRG said that guided by its mandate to protect, defend and support communities affected by the negative impacts of extractive industries, they express solidarity with staff, pupils and the families of the affected children who must be going through trauma and distress due to the life-threatening incident.
CNRG said that mining in the affected region has been poorly regulated regardless of clear evidence that both legal and illegal mining activities are posing a danger to the cities of Kadoma and Kwekwe and surrounding environs.
The NGO says that disused shafts and tunnels in the two cities have lately attracted an army of artisanal and small-scale miners with little knowledge of underground mining operations.
It is added that the impact of blasting is frequently felt in Kwekwe and Kadoma, often resulting in infrastructure shaking and cracking.
Residents across the two cities are reported to be constantly complaining of frequent tremors emanating from blasting.
CNRG says that at Battle Grounds Police Station in Kadoma, buildings are frequently cracking due to tremors triggered by blasting and Police officers at the station live in fear.
The NGO says that the entire station might one day disappear into underground tunnels.
They add that experts have often warned that rampant mining activities in Kwekwe and Kadoma will one day lead to a massive disaster that is very avoidable.
“The time to take remedial action is NOW before the magnitude of these problems gets bigger and lives are lost. At CNRG we prioritise the safety of people above profits. We envision communities like Kadoma and Kwekwe benefiting from their natural resource endowments, without endangering human lives and built infrastructure. The vast majority of residential properties in the two cities are not ensured and yet some house owners are frequently attending to cracks caused by mining activities,” CNRG said in a statement.
The NGO has called upon the Government of Zimbabwe to immediately halt all learning activities at Globe and Phoenix primary and secondary schools on safety grounds, offer psycho-social support to all the staff, pupils and families affected by the Globe and Phoenix incident, dispatch a team of civil and structural engineers to investigate the classroom collapse at Globe and Phoenix Primary School and to inspect the tunnels in both Kadoma and Kwekwe,make a firm decision, based on the recommendation of impartial experts, whether mining must continue beneath the cities of Kwekwe and Kadoma, stop the culture of impunity enjoyed by artisanal, small and medium-scale miners whose activities are threatening the safety of people in the two cities, utilize ongoing efforts to amend the Mines and Minerals Act to strengthen the law so that it protects human settlements against destructive mining practices, ensure that law-abiding mining corporations are not undermined by the work of unscrupulous miners, whether registered or unregistered, by coming hard on unsafe mining practices and to urgently convene an all-stakeholders meeting to discuss the Globe and Phoenix incident, assess the risk and explore lasting solutions.
The NGO says that it sees the Globe and Phoenix incident as a warning of a ticking time bomb whose full-scale implosion will have a deleterious and yet inexcusable impact on the two cities and the nation at large.