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Mining Companies Accused of Failing to Equip Local Hospitals During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Hwange hospitals are battling with a lack of resources despite the presence of various mining and safari companies. Image by Unsplash

BY CALVIN MANIKA | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | OCT 5, 2022

Despite wrecking millions from mining, companies operating in Hwange failed to donate substantially to the COVID-19 cause. As a result, local hospitals failed to cope with the pandemic as a result of unavailability of resources.

HWANGE (The Citizen Bulletin) — Reward Ncube of Madumabisa village remembers how the nearest clinic and hospital, both could not send him an ambulance when he contracted COVID-19.

Courageous relatives had to risk their lives and hire a neighbours’ vehicle which was to be fumigated after taking Ncube to the nearest hospital.

“I could have been dead. What surprised me is that in a town with dozens of mining companies and safari companies, local hospitals should have been well equipped to handle COVID-19. In other cities, local companies had chipped in to support the capacity of local hospitals.”
Reward Ncube, a villager in Madumabisa

The high number of infections and deaths in Zimbabwe put the country’s ailing health infrastructure under pressure. Government was forced to convert some schools and idle structures into isolation centres while PPEs were scarce. But through companies and organisations responding to the distress calls their needs were addressed.

Hwange has vast deposits of coal which are estimated to be available for at least for the next 1000 years. At the height of COVID-19, residents say most of the rich mining companies operating in the district failed their Corporate Social Responsibility test as they did not do enough to support efforts to halt the pandemic.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) within the mining sector has evolved to become a central part of mine-community relations. Mining companies now accept that the communities affected by their operations need to have basic services like water, health care, electricity and sanitation.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hwange mining companies failed to donate substantially to the cause. Image by Unsplash

Maxwell Sithole, a community rights activist, says developing a mine presents an opportunity to improve conditions within these communities.

“...and unless the community benefits, the mine risks becoming an enclave. The challenge of Corporate Social Responsibility in Zimbabwe and other parts of the world is not mandatory or in statutes but voluntary. Therefore, it is difficult to enforce a voluntary gesture. But, these mining companies somehow must be held accountable,” says Sithole.

Villagers allege that Hwange companies did not do anything worthwhile despite the fact that they make millions of dollars monthly from their mining operations in the district.

Siphiwe Zulu, a villager in Makwandara says, the donations could have helped but they were insignificant to the larger communities of Hwange as people expected more.

ALSO READ: Life After COVID-19 Lockdowns: Informal Traders Struggling to Recover

“We understand that Safari companies didn’t make money during the pandemic since there was business. But, for coal mining companies, they made a lot of money even during the pandemic,” says Zulu. “Right now they continue to destroy our environment. It was time to pay back, but nothing came.”

At the height of the pandemic, frontline health workers could not attend to COVID-19 suspected patients as they feared contracting the disease. In some clinics with few staff, they were closed in case one staff member tested positive. Hwange villagers say they suffered and continue suffering in accessing basic health care post the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Most of these companies have their own private clinics on their sites with good doctors and equipment. And they are able to fly their executives to other cities. But, for us without their support, we have to endure poor services at ill-equipped public hospitals.”
Siphiwe Zulu, a villager in Makwandara

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