THEY are known as ‘magweja’ or ‘makorokoza’.
The term ‘gweja’ is applied in the use of hard labour in extracting something, usually water from a borehole pump.
One has to pump and sweat until water starts trickling out of the borehole.
Its hard work with enticing rewards and usually when they get a few grammes of gold, they immediately abandon their posts to quench their thirst, in all forms.
Elvis Musamu, who dreams of one day opening a grocery store, is an artisanal miner at a shaft at Giant Mine, 10km north of Chegutu town, where he works in suffocating heat between 8am and 5pm.
At times, he sweats seven days a week without any luck, returning home dispirited but determined not to give up.
Back home in Mvurwi, worried family members pray for Musamu as he scrapes the earth each day for its riches.
“We can pull more out of the ground,” is how Musamu puts it into perspective.
Now 27 years old, he has been digging since he was 14.
“Some newcomers die,” he explains, sitting in the shade of his simple camp.
“They don’t know how to use their picks and the mines cave in.”
The ‘shaft’ is nothing more than a simple hole, one metre in diameter and sometimes 30m deep.
Beams to support the galleries are rare in the mine’s narrow passages.
His daily work routine includes carrying more than 80kg of rocks and climbing into shafts where temperatures are very high.
Away from the dust, Musamu and mates – men and women, are known for their extravagant lifestyle.
They drive shiny sedans and SUVs.
When they strike the yellow metal, they buy meat and drinks for the whole village to eat, drink and be merry.
But still, tomorrow is another toiling day.
“Our lives should not end here because we need to prepare through structuring our lives, investing in pension schemes, property and forming a business entity that will perpetuate even beyond the grave for future generations,” said Musamu raising his voice to talk above the repetitive noise of stones being crushed by massive machines.
One day he will grow old, get sick or possibly incur injuries that will stop him from working.
What will become of him?
“We want to stop this thing of people hiding their money under mattresses as they must be able to bank their money and invest in pension schemes,” said Desire Mutsawu, Mining Industry Pension Fund (MIPF) assistant pensions manager.
“They should prepare for their old age and not die paupers as has been the norm.”
Currently, 1,5 million people in Zimbabwe depend on artisanal and small-scale mining.
Last year, artisanal and small-scale miners contributed over half of the 24,8 tonnes of gold Zimbabwe produced.
Over the years, artisanal miners have proven they have capacity to surpass production of large gold miners.
In 2004, they accounted for 60 percent of total deliveries.
In 2016, the artisanal miners contributed 45 percent of the country’s gold production.
Danangwe District Youth Mining Co-operative (DDYMC) chairman Stuart Luckford said a pension scheme for artisanal miners would be a welcome development.
DDYMC has over 10 000 artisanal miners operating in Chegutu.
“The best way to operate the pension schemes would be through Fidelity Printers and Refineries,” said Luckford.
“Once one delivers gold, a certain percentage is then deducted for the scheme.”
He said the schemes should cater for artisanal miners’ specific social and economic circumstances.
“Not all days are good, income is not guaranteed,” siad Luckford.
The Insurance and Pensions Commission (IPEC) says it is working on a micro-pensions regulatory framework to cater for the country’s informal businesses as a way of enhancing financial inclusion for this previously excluded sector.
This follows the introduction of a micro-insurance regulatory framework in the second half of last year, which also facilitates provision of insurance to low-income earners.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Pensions Day celebrations in Mutare, IPEC pension manager Josphat Kakwere told Patriot Business the crafting of the micro-pensions framework was already at an advanced stage and should be finalised by year end.
“At the moment, we are working on the framework itself and once we finalise it, we will then announce it,” said Kakwere.
“We want to accommodate as many people as possible through various easily accessible channels.”
IPEC which has been raising awareness on importance of pension said unclaimed pension benefits had risen to US$30 million with about 48 000 pensionable claims on the books of insurance companies lying unclaimed.
And the majority of the people who have not claimed their money were those who used to work in the mining and clothing industries. These include standalone funds, self-administered funds and insured funds.
The continued rise in the figure has jolted the insurance regulatory board to take corrective measures and is now planning to publicise the names of policy holders whose benefits have not been claimed with the hope of reaching out to the beneficiaries.
Mining Industry Pension Fund (MIPF) said they were assisting in trying to trace beneficiaries from the mining industry.
“The reasons for unclaimed pension money include the failure by many employers to provide proper information to employees, such as informing them of their entitlement to a withdrawal benefit if they resign, are dismissed or retrenched from employment and how to claim a benefit when it accrues,” said Eldon Gwawu, a MIPF pension officer.
“Other reasons include ever changing contact information submitted upon joining and failure by many fund members to inform their dependents that, if they die in service, there may be benefits payable to those dependents.”
The pension fund has gone as far as Malawi to try and allocate some ex-mine workers whose benefits lie unclaimed.
“We do periodic mine visits. We have gone as far as Malawi tracing the addresses and information availed by these former mine workers,” said Gwawu.
Meanwhile, scores of Zimbabweans who are former employees of the South African mines (Witwatersrand Native Labour Association — WNLA popularly known as Wenela) are set to receive their pensions and other benefits said to be running into R4 billion .
Their representative body, the Ex-Wenela Miners Association, is making efforts to claim the benefits and is in the process of registering former miners and retrieving records confirming their employment history.
A number of ex-miners who were employed during the apartheid period were not aware of the benefits they were supposed to be paid.
“Some aren’t aware of all the formalities involved and how to go around them while others are owed up to R400 000 each,” Ex-Wenela Miners Association said.
Those set to benefit worked in the neighbouring country’s mines in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.