A Miner who once was a dignified, respected hardworking happy person has now become a symbol of shame, debt laden and hopeless modern slavery.
Prior and post-independence and subsequent Multiparty Democracy, a Miner was a well-respected person in the communities of the Copperbelt province and Zambia as a nation, owing to the fact that most the nation’s GDP and Economy rode on the thriving Mining Industry engineered by hardworking selfless dedicated miners. This one glorified occupation has sadly turned to a “shameful one” all because the powers that be have turned a blind eye to one of the major contributing group of people to this nation’s economy.
Miners just like any other working groups deserve respect from the nation’s leaders, not only used as mare tools to dangerously dig out precious minerals bestowed on this great nation of Zambia. The struggle for Zambia’s independence largely succeeded due to the engagement of miners on the Copperbelt, not to birth of multi-partism in 1991 which was tirelessly engineered and actualized with the priceless efforts of dedicated miners of the Copperbelt province. The famous 2011 Patriotic Front (PF) Election victory and rise to power of the then pro-poor government was largely attributed to the campaign successes register on the Copperbelt province dominated by miners.
Sad to note that our hardworking miners of the Copperbelt and recently North-Western Provinces, have been reduced to mare beggars and have become a symbol of shame and utter destitution. Job losses, loans and debt have become daily nightmares as their survival and future have become bleak and uncertain. Sending their children even to government schools and affording a descent accommodation has become a “luxury” they can no longer gladly afford as the government and the nation have decided to throw away the “cow” that gave them the “milk” they are enjoying today.
Paradoxically, at the same time that our hardworking miners are enduring all this untold sufferings, the so called “foreign expatriates” in the mining industry with their inferior or forged and false qualification are thriving, wining and dining with hefty salaries, bonus and allowances they get for performing similar and some cases even less delicate jobs than the local miners. These expatriates are engaged in jobs that Zambians have done before and are able to do. They are getting huge amounts which are not even taxed in most cases. This scenario really raises concerns as to what the Ministries of Labour, Mining and Home Affairs are doing with regard to immigrant, labour laws and conditions as well as mining regulations. The people entrusted with safeguarding the interests of Zambian citizenry and miners in particular have lamentably failed. Despite the much sung about minimum wage, you will find that we still have Zambian local miners getting far below the mediocre minimum wage while working under risky life threatening conditions all to the joy of the politicians and the so called investors with their expatriates. The investors in most cases do not even allow the local workers to form or belong to any of today’s toothless bride-hungry unions.
The situation is even catastrophic for miners working for Zambian mining companies and Contractors not to mention those owned by some loud politicians and government officials whose worker go for 3 to 5 months without getting their salaries. It’s a sorry scene!!!
Where has modesty gone in governance of this great nation? Where are the Labour and Mine Inspectors? This untold suffering of the hardworking Miners on the Copperbelt and North-Western Provinces has to stop and dignity restored to the once revered and admired occupation of mining. Equal Pay and conditions for same work has to prevail regardless of race, colour or relation to management.
To all the respected hardworking miners, know and remember that weeping may endure but for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Let’s vote wisely and bring the morning of joy to our occupation, families, Copperbelt and Zambia by choosing people who will consider miners as partners in development and not mare tools their enrichment.
By NatSam Ng’oma