Forty-nine Years on, Kamandama Widows Wallow in Poverty

As the country commemorates the 49th anniversary of the Kamandama mine disaster in Hwange which killed 427 workers, surviving widows and children of the victims say they feel neglected by the government.

On 6 June 1972, 427 miners were killed by a methane gas explosion while working at Hwange Colliery Company Limited’s No. 2 mine. The incident was declared a disaster and the worst in Zimbabwe’s mining history to date.

Widows told CITE that they felt neglected as the Hwange Colliery remembered them on the day of the commemorations.

“While we appreciate efforts by the company to remember our departed husbands we however feel Colliery has neglected us and only remembers us on this day. Most of us are now old and sick requiring medical care which is difficult to come by given that the company is no longer caring for us,” said one widow who refused to be named.

Another widow, Julieta Mudenda said commemorating the day was painful for her as her husband’s sacrifices were in vain arguing that the Colliery no longer cared for them.

“This day now serves as a painful reminder for me. My husband died while serving his company, his sweat and sacrifices are only realised on 6 June with gifts dished out to us on the day.”

One dependent of Kamandama disaster victims said he was now wallowing in poverty after he lost his job which he had been given by the company 10 years ago under its restructuring exercise.

It is understood that Hwange Colliery Company has over the years been absorbing dependents of the victims by giving them jobs while the widows have occasionally received groceries or cash payouts. The company has over the years come under fire for lying to government on the welfare of widows and parading them before invited guests under the guise of honoring their departed husbands.

This year the company did not hold an event as is the usual norm citing the Covid-19 pandemic however it is understood that a memorial was held by a few surviving widows who visited the site. The widows are reportedly going to receive USD20 payouts which are going to be converted into local currency. It is not clear how many widows are surviving however a source told CITE that about 38 were still alive and living in the rural areas.

Efforts to get a comment from the company’s spokesperson Dr Beauty Mutombe were fruitless as he was unreachable.

The company introduced the Kamandama mine memorial golf tournament with the aim of fundraising towards the surviving widows welfare. However, this year’s annual golf tournament was shelved due to COVID-19.

There have been relentless calls from workers unions for government to declare the day a national holiday to conscientise people on the sacrifices and bring emphasis on workplace safety.

Hwange Central Member of Parliament, Daniel Molokele called on authorities to observe safety while ensuring that the welfare of the widows was prioritised.

“As such, today is the day when we have to retrospect and introspect, with heavy hearts and take the opportunity to focus on Mine safety. But even more crucially, we must not forget the affected families especially the widows of the deceased miners who lost their lives on tour of duty. Indeed, this sombre day must always provoke our minds to ask the questions whether enough has been done by the relevant authorities with regards to both the welfare and livelihoods of all the affected families, especially the widows.”

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology

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