The stench is unmistakable throughout what used to be business magnate Mutumwa Mawere’s distressed Shabanie Mashava Mines (SMM), which also encompasses Gaths Mine in Mashava, a few kilometres out of Masvingo town.
Water supplies have been cut off at some houses in the compound as the mine owes Zvishavane town council more than US$3 million. Only communal toilets have been spared to avert a possible cholera outbreak.
The closure of the mines has also squeezed life out of the asbestos mining area, which now resembles a ghost town.
Out of the mess that SMM found itself in following Mawere’s specification and subsequent placing of the empire under re-construction, many sad tales have been told of the suffering that the more than 1 300 workers now have to go through.
The Standard learnt of harrowing tales that have gone unnoticed such as the fate of widows, the disabled and those living with HIV and Aids.
While some who are able bodied and healthy are doing menial jobs to survive, life has been a hell on earth for Aids patients and widows.
While HIV and Aids support groups preach adherence to the life-prolonging Anti-Retroviral (ARV) drugs, those living with the virus said they sometimes fail to raise the money to buy drugs.
They also cited lack of a proper balanced diet, which led many to early deaths.
“Some of us are HIV-positive, but we cannot take the drugs regularly.
“We do not have the money to keep buying the drugs, or even travel to nearby hospitals where they are given for free.
“Some cannot even raise a dollar to register with the Zimbabwe Network of People Living with HIV (ZNPP+) so that they can access free medication,” said Norman Zivengwa from Mashava, who said he has been living with the disease since 1994.
He told members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines recently that he had seen many Aids patients dying a premature death.
And the disease is spreading fast as many are turning to prostitution to earn a living,” Zivengwa said.
The committee, chaired by Edward Chindori Chininga, was also told that prostitution was rife in Zvishavane and Mashava, threatening the country’s anti-HIV and Aids war.
A widow, Mary Kampango, said life had been unbearable for her, as she has been “totally forgotten” by mine management from the time when the mine’s fortunes started dipping.
“While some of the workers were given some stipends, especially when the mine’s problems were surfacing, I was forgotten,” she said.
“I have not been given any benefits or my late husband’s pension, although he died in 2009.
“Management actually wanted to chase me out of the mine house.
“At one time, all my belongings were thrown outside as I was kicked out of the house that was given to my husband. But I was later given a few rooms in another compound, despite the fact that my husband had been employed here for 40 years,” she said, with her eyes becoming watery with tears.
She also told of discrimination at the mine.
“At one time I fell ill, nurses refused to treat me, saying my days were due in the mine,” Kampango said.
A nurse at Zvishavane Mine clinic said although she has also been affected, those who were ill were worse off.
“This is not the right time to fall ill. I am also afraid of getting ill this time as there are no drugs,”said the nurse.
“You prescribe some drugs to patients and tell them to take the drugs after food, and they ask you, ‘where do you think I will get the food as I have not been paid’.”
Underground, no mining has been taking place since September last year and the tunnels are flooded and electricity has been cut off owing to a ballooning debt accrued over the years.