Relating her journey as a miner, Mrs Evance Majola, a grandmother of four brightens with tremendous joy. A former vegetable vendor, she recalls with pride the date in 1999 when she turned her back on small-scale vegetable farming, launching a full-time occupation as a miner.
Thanks to her mining business venture, that she started almost two decades ago, Mrs Majola counts among her blessings, “the Special One”. By this, she means the shiny, well-furnished modern house that is a far cry from the mud-thatched, semi-permanent rondavel that she previously called home.
“There is more income to be earned from mining than any other job in rural areas traditionally meant for women” she explains, adding that she encourages her 18-year old grand-daughter, Sidhumile Ncube to pursue this activity. “I want her to utilise an opportunity that I only got much later in life“.
A founding member of the Mthandazo Women’s Mining Centre in Collen Bawn, Gwanda District of Matabeleland South Province, Mrs Majola is a beneficiary of mining equipment that was provided to the centre in November 2016 by the UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development.
The development is a potential game-change for the women miners. Following the provision of new equipment, the women will reap from reduced rates as they own the facility. They will share profit and benefit from the residual gold they will get from the processed sands, a bonus because they cannot do so at commercial stamp mills. Commercial stamp mills keep the sands so they can extract residual gold to enhance their profit margin.
The Women’s Mining Centre—the first that is exclusively women owned in Zimbabwe—has 34 members.
“Before they joined us, most of our members were engaged in low-paying jobs such as vegetable vendors, electricians, secretaries and farm labourers but now they are all miners. It’s a major achievement” says Ms Sithembile Ndlovu who is the Chairperson of Mthandazo Women Mining Centre.
The Centre brings together women miners, most of whom are engaged in mining operations employing scores of people. For example, Mrs Majola employs 18 people at her mining operation in Gwanda. The Centre includes a mini-processing plant for the gold ores before the precious mineral is packaged for commercial purposes. It also provides a platform for the women to network, share their experiences, market their products and improve their mining operations.
Before the mining centre was established in Gwanda, the women miners would take their items to commercial stamp mills where they were charged high fees. Commercial stamp mills charge $5 an hour and stamping may run for 2 – 3 weeks on the same load of ore.
To empower more women in Gwanda, the chairperson of the Centre has grand plans. “We intend to use proceeds from the Centre to build a stamp mill for the neighbouring community to empower other women the same way we were empowered by the ministry and UNDP” says Mrs Ndlovu.