ZELA STATEMENT ON THE COLLAPSE OF A CLASSROOM BLOCK AT GLOBE AND PHOENIX PRIMARY SCHOOL – KWEKWE
Date of Issue: 17 March 2023
The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) is saddened to learn about the collapse of a classroom block at Globe and Phoenix Primary School in Kwekwe. The accident, which happened on March 16, 2023, saw at least 14 pupils injured because of the cave-in. ZELA applauds the swift assistance that was offered to the learners to avoid any loss of precious life and wishes the injured a speedy recovery.
The collapse of the classroom block at Globe and Phoenix Primary School is once again a reminder that irresponsible mining is retrogressive and should not be tolerated at any level. Throughout ZELA’s existence, the organisation has been advocating for responsible and sustainable mining and highlighting the threats posed by irresponsible mining to different groups of people in mining communities. To contribute towards responsible and sustainable mining practices, ZELA has developed programs targeted at providing Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners (ASMers) with capacity on key aspects of Safety Health and Environment (SHE), Disaster Risk Rescue skills, and has been encouraging ASMers to regularise and comply with mining laws. The organisation has also been working on a program at the intersection between children’s rights and mining and sharing key considerations for all stakeholders given the vulnerabilities of children in mining host communities. While the initiatives implemented by ZELA have made some strides in the areas where the organisation has been actively programming, there is still a long way to go if disasters linked to irresponsible mining are still taking place in such areas as schools, where they are not ordinarily expected.
Although ZELA appreciates that mining is the backbone of economic recovery and strategies such as the 12 billion Mining Economy are important for economic development, any strategy can only contribute to sustainable development and the achievement of Zimbabwe’s development agenda, when done in a manner that takes cognizance of the environment, the communities and is supported by a strong regulatory and monitoring framework. Over the years, ZELA has been calling for the responsible authorities to recognise and act on the threat of illegal mining activities that have continued unabated in many parts of the country. Whilst there are legislative provisions in place that regulate operations in the mining sector, the current framing of the Mines and Minerals Act and the procedures laid out therein have been cited as contributors towards the proliferation of illegal mining within different mining sectors. Prohibitive costs and lack of technical skills required for compliance have also resulted in most artisanal miners not regularising their mining activities. This incident must be a clarion call for authorities to act on the best possible ways to regulate the artisanal and small-scale mining sector to discourage illegal activity and non-compliance.
ZELA is outraged to learn that no action was taken by the relevant authorities to rectify the issue of tunnels running under the school, an issue which was raised – and was of public record – in December 2022. The idea of having tunnels in almost every facet of a city or town, is a violation of section 73 of the Constitution which seeks to guarantee every citizen the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being. Ordinarily, schools are regarded as a safe environment for children but this accident, isolated as it might appear, violates the children’s right to a safe environment. This right will continue to be violated if we fail to see this accident as a call for positive mitigatory and responsive action to avoid similar disasters happening in Zimbabwe at large. Furthermore, failure to regulate or hold individuals and businesses who conduct illegal mining to account leads not only to illicit financial flows, but also to the destruction of infrastructure and educational services in addition to posing a threat to life. It is unfortunate that this threat became a reality through endangering the lives of innocent children when such could have been avoided. ZELA will continue to play its role in advocating for responsible and sustainable mining in Zimbabwe and calls upon other stakeholders such as local authorities, central government, government departments and agencies, civil society organisations and the private sector to continue making deliberate actions towards promoting responsible mining and protecting the environment.
Call To Action:
a. Government through the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, the Environmental Management Agency and the Zimbabwe Republic Police must thoroughly investigate the incident and make sure that those responsible for the accident are held to account.
b. Relevant government departments should organise therapy sessions for all the victims of the school block collapse and by extension all students at Globe and Phoenix Primary School who witnessed the collapse. This is in the best interest of the children to assist them in healing from this shocking and traumatic experience.
c. The government must put in place measures to deal with corruption within the institutions mandated to implement and enforce laws related to illegal mining. Those accused of corruption should be arrested and prosecuted without delay and, if found guilty, they should receive deterrent sentences which send a strong message to would be offenders.
d. Illegal miners must be actively blocked from using disused underground shafts.
e. The Zimbabwe Mining Safety, Health and Environmental Council (ZIMSHEC), Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) should ensure ASMers comprehend the importance of Safety, Health and Environmental considerations before they enter into mining.
f. Licensing procedures and methods must be simplified as an incentive for ASMers to regularise their mining activities.
g. The government must ensure the enforcement of the legal and policy framework by enhancing collaboration and co-ordination among institutions, be they state or non-state institutions. Institutions such as the Ministry of Mines and EMA should collaborate with local authorities and traditional leaders in ensuring that miners comply with the law. Local authorities and traditional leaders are on the ground and can monitor mining activities, even where resources are limited.
h. As already proposed, there is need to have stiff penalties included in the new Mines and Minerals Act, for the illegal miners who [will] continue illegal mining activities despite progressive provisions in line with points (c) and (d) above. This is meant to deter illegal mining and enhance environmental protection.
i. The media should effectively play its role in raising awareness of responsible mining practices by widening the reach of awareness programmes.
For Further Information, Please Contact:
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association
26 B Seke Road, Hatfield,Harare,Zimbabwe
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