Centre for Environment Justice (CEJ) has learned that 35 people that work for a manganese processing plant in Serenje District shake continuously after developing a strange illness. The victims are patiently waiting for a detailed medical report.
CEJ Executive Director Maggie Mwape, who visited the victims in Serenje District, Central Province, where CEJ is running a three-year project dubbed Resilient Initiative for Sustainable Environment – RISE project, expressed concern that the condition is suspected to have emerged from a toxic chemical used to enhance manganese grade. She emphasized that constant exposure to manganese could have caused a neurological degenerative condition, and that victims complained to her that the condition was also affecting the nervous system, resulting in erectile dysfunction.
“We are deeply concerned about the health of these workers,” Ms. Mwape said. “We call for an evacuation abroad for specialized treatment of the victims.”
Ms. Mwape urged the Workers Compensation Fund Control Board to respond immediately for compliance checks and negotiate for fair compensation for the affected workers. She noted that the workers were not receiving adequate protection, and that they were not receiving milk, personal protective equipment, and were not receiving full salary payment while nursing a wound when injured at work.
“Workers get paid K1,700 with the majority working as casual workers receiving K5 as overtime per hour,” she said. “We demand improved health and safety in processing plants in Serenje to save lives.”
Ms. Mwape also called on the Ministry of Health to conduct urgent official tests on the victims and provide them with a full detailed medical report on the condition. She urged the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment to give a position on the alleged chemicals bought in Kabwe for use in Serenje, which were not good for human health and the environment.
“Zambia Environmental Management Agency – ZEMA should go on the ground in Serenje to assess the situation than waiting for periodic reviews when the atmospheric conditions clearly show that most investors are irresponsible emitters,” she said.
The CEJ Executive Director challenged the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Development to give an official statement on the manganese processing investors in Serenje. She emphasized the need for responsible investors who shall respect the laws and regulations of the land, do not exploit people, and uphold human rights principles.
“Without a doubt, we need mining investors to create a balance for the economy, environment, and employment. But I must emphasize that we need responsible investors,” she said. “We demand action on bad investment practices, especially on the levels of pollution and damage to the environment coupled by the loss of inhabitants including human beings, as seen in Serenje.”
Ms. Mwape urged the leadership in Serenje to unite as they handle the politically charged and tense processes, adding that it was high time that those holding political positions became more responsible.
“We cannot have over 15 mineral processing plants without a single union to represent the interests of the workers, and therefore, we call upon relevant stakeholders to go and register workers for union membership,” she said.
One of the victims, whose identity has been withheld for fear of possible victimization, informed CEJ that the condition is not curable, adding that fair compensation would be ideal.
“I am one of the affected workers, and I can tell you that this illness has caused immense suffering,” the worker said. “We are grateful to the Centre for Environment Justice for advocating for our rights and urging the government to take action.”
Let those crooks in Lusaka to leave their ministry posts to at least spend a month working in suc dirty mines.
The Mines Safety Department must be held accountable for lack of supervision. 35 is a large number for a small scale mine. How can it be allowed to record such an occupational health hazard? This matter mustn’t be swept under the carpet. Chinese mines require stringent supervision. Didn’t we learn anything from the BGRIMM disaster?
And everyone is quiet in this loud nation! Where are all the noisemakers from Emmanuel Mwamba through Fred mmembe who talks about fathers of the nation to Thabo Kawana and his boss Chushi and Green Party leader Sinkamba etc????. Arent you parties interested in the health of citizens?
Can anyone live on K1,700.00 in Zambia today, where houses cost millions? Truly exploitative. Why is Zambia always on the back foot of unscrupulous employers? Overtime of K5.00…. what can you buy from K5.00?? Despicable.
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