DEPUTY minister of Mines and Mining Development Fred Moyo’s Inez Mine which shut down in January due to non-payment of workers’ salaries has now become a death trap where desperate former workers are losing their lives while illegally mining for gold.
Two former employees died last week, one on Thursday and the other on Sunday, after they were trapped by debris when the shaft they were working in collapsed.
Since Moyo took over, a total of six people have lost their lives, with others being seriously injured as poverty pushes the employees into illegal mining. Early this year some disgruntled workers attached and auctioned movable property at the mine over unpaid salaries, and have vowed that they will not leave the mine until they get their salaries and pensions.
The workers are demanding over US$190 000 in wages excluding statutory payments and medical cover, claiming Moyo deducted these from their salaries.
Last week on Thursday a former plant operator at the mine died while trying to extract some gold deposits, something many former employees are engaged in to sustain their livelihoods.
“The deceased was underground on Thursday morning, but those who were working with him said he was trapped inside the shaft after a rock collapsed and crushed him to death,” said a source who is a former Inez miner.
“We resorted to illegal mining because Moyo has let us down by not taking mining seriously after grabbing it from its former owners,” said the source, adding: “The operations being carried out now are dangerous because of lack of safety precautions.”
The source further said: “Another employee lost his life on Sunday evening in the same shaft and the message we are getting from Moyo is that we should all leave the mine. But that is not possible because we have not been paid for the past 12 months.”
Moyo was dragged to court last year after he abandoned the employees without paying their salaries.
In an affidavit deposed at the arbitration court of Kadoma on June 30 2013, 147 workers employed at the mine claimed that Inez Mine owned by Moyo has failed or neglected to pay wages and salaries since January 2013 when he took over the gold mine from its Australian owners.
“The amount due to workers for the period March 2013 to date is US$190 000 for wages only and as for statutory deductions Inez deducted the said statutory, but never remitted to the respective owners,” read part of the application.
In an interview on Tuesday, Moyo refused to shed light on developments at his mine.
“I am in parliament and I suggest you talk to the management of the mine,” Moyo said.
Efforts to get a comment from the mine’s management failed as the company’s telephone numbers went unanswered.