Attack on Striking Miners
Since a government takeover in 2004, Zimbabwe's asbestos mines at Shebanie and Mashaba have provided desperately needed foreign exchange for the Mugabe regime. The problem is that the state-appointed administrator, Arafas Gwarazimba, stopped paying the workforce in January 2009. In early September, 2,280 mine workers, members of the Shebanie Mine Workers Union, went on strike and effectively shut down operations at the mine in the south-western town of Zvishavane.
On September 25, Zimbabwe's Republic Police attacked demonstrators at a peaceful rally on company premises, firing tear gas into a crowd of 1,000 miners and supporters. In the mayhem which resulted, three men were shot: Alois Zhou, Taurai Zhao and Simbarashe Masahuka. Tichaona Chivasa, a lawyer representing the injured men, said:
I do not understand why police reacted so heavy-handed because there was no need to for them to be involved in the first place. What is worrying is that these people were not in town but within company premises and peaceful.1
The Congress of South African Trade Unions condemned the unprovoked attack by the police:
the striking workers have been forced to go back to work after being visited by gun-toting policemen and the dreaded Central Intelligence Operatives. The state security agents together with Shebanie Mine security officers visited workers in their homes on 29 September threatening them that if they did not return to work the following day, the workers should vacate not only the mine house they occupy but also get out of town.2
October 6, 2009
1 Sibanda T. Police shoot striking mine workers in Zvishavane. September 25, 2009.
2 ICEM InBrief. Three Miners Shot, Hundreds Gassed in Zimbabwe Near Asbestos Mine. October 5, 2009.