BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
THE Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) says inequalities in the mining sector were derailing efforts by the industry to address the socio-economic problems in communities.
Speaking during an alternative mining indaba held virtually this week, ZCC’s Martha Mutswarakati of the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe said the elite were accumulating wealth because they had the means of production, while depriving the poor of access to the natural resources.
Mutswarakati said through exports, the mining industry earned the country foreign currency which could boost the country’s gross domestic product and transform the lives of the majority of the people who are living below the poverty datum line.
She also said gender segregation in the extractive industry during the COVID-19 pandemic had widened inequalities between males and females, resulting in women having challenges in accessing natural resources.
“Due to the deepened economic hardships during the pandemic, women have broken the gender barriers and are engaging in artisanal mining to make ends meet,” she said.
“They are, however, facing segregation from their male counterparts who discriminate against them to discourage them from taking part in the trade.”
The church leader condemned unfair labour practices which include worker exploitation by some companies or artisanal miners, saying although workers did a greater part of the job in making sure the minerals were extracted, they were underpaid.
A recent report by Transparency International Zimbabwe revealed that the country was losing billions every year in the mining sector due to financial leakages through smuggling of minerals and illicit trade.
ZCC secretary-general Kenneth Mtata said due to inequalities in the extraction of natural resources, the rich had become richer, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic where activity was limited, hence the need for government to come up with policies to ensure equitable distribution of resources.
“The rich increased their wealth by more than 25% as they managed to buy more shares when global stock markets have since rebounded, making up much of the losses,” he said.