Bikita Minerals is building deplorable hostels reminiscent of the colonial era for its hundreds of employees, EnviroPress has observed.
The hostels are shaped in the all too common rural classroom blocks, and are subdivided into very small rooms not fit for habitation by an average family.
The rooms are so small and knitted together that genuine privacy is impossible, and so will be the enjoyment of human dignity as espoused in the country’s constitution.
Accommodation at the mining company is segregated; with ordinary employees of Chinese origins being accommodated in more decent apartments that their Black counterparts many of whom are accommodated in cabins and tents.
The mining company and some of its dozen labour brokers are also building new apartments for employees but many of these hardly, if at all, reflect the enormous production at the company.
Many employees told EnviroPress that the company was less concerned with the welfare of its local employees than that of their Chinese counterparts.
They said the new hostels being built were meant for singles yet the majority of the company’s direct and indirect employees were family men and women who would want to stay with their families.
“The hostels that they are building are not fit for purpose and they are dehumanizing. The match-box rooms are too clustered and they do not provide for safety, dignity and privacy. We are family people and we would like to stay with our families but what is happening takes us back to the colonial era when government and companies provided crowded accommodation which did not support a good family environment,” said an employee who preferred anonymity for fear of victimization.
There are close to 2000 workers at Bikita Minerals, the great majority of them either employed by contractor companies or by the mining company as casuals.
Due to a severer than before shortage of accommodation created by a sudden surge in recruitment to serve the increased production targets, many employees pay rentals in the surrounding villagers and walk to work all the time.
Bikita Minerals was acquired by Sinomine form its majority German shareholders in early 2022, and the new owners wasted no time in increasing production to meet rising demand for lithium-bearing minerals on the global market.
This project was made possible through a partnership with the Southern Africa Trust. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent that of the Trust or its associates. www.southernafricatrust.org