By Bekezela Mguni
Tendai Sibanda (31) says artisanal miners, commonly referred locally as makorokoza work in a violent environment and the violence often rears its ugly head in their families, away from work. Tendai says since she got married to Brian Moyo (34) an artisanal miner, her life has been miserable.
Tendai and her husband live in Esikhoveni, a rich gold mining village in Esigodini, about 45 kilometres south of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The two have been married for seven years and are blessed with three children. Tendai says her husband spends his earnings on alcohol and leaves her to support the family alone.
“My husband is an artisanal miner here in Esigodini. He makes a lot of money but he spends all of it on alcohol. He has too many friends and they always go out to the many nightclubs in our community. Each time he comes back, he will be drunk and without any money to support his family,” says Tendai.
Tendai says artisanal miners always engage in running battles with other miners or with law enforcement agents. That violence plays out in the home especially when Brian has no money. Tendai adds that she has to support her children through her work as a hairdresser.
“Each time I ask my husband for money to care for the children, he turns violent. He beats me up in the presence of our children. He does not care about our welfare. I have a two months old baby and I am supposed to concentrate on taking care of the baby. However, I spend most of my time plaiting hair to raise money to support the children,” says Tendai.
Tendai says her recent altercation with her husband took place after he had spent three days in a nightclub. When he came back, Tendai says he had squandered all the money and had brought nothing for the family.
“My husband left home in the afternoon to buy some alcohol with his friends. I had expected him to come back within a few minutes. To my surprise, he did came back. On the third day he turned up at 04:00 and he was dead drunk,” says Tendai.
Tendai says she asked her husband to explain why he had disappeared. She says her husband initially refused to talk but after much pestering, he answered that he was the man of the house and that no one could question his whereabouts.
“The conversation quickly degenerated into a verbal contest. My husband then lost control and slapped me on the face. l pushed him out of the bed trying to protect my little baby who was already crying. That is when he threw a fist on me hitting me hard on the face,” says Tendai.
Tendai says she screamed out in pain and the neighbours rushed to help her but the damage was already done. She says her husband had hit her on the eye and had hurt the children too. After this violent incident, Tendai says she decided to pack her belongings and go back to stay with her grandmother.
The breakdown of her family has seriously affected Tendai’s life as she says all the burden of caring for her children in on her shoulders. She feels that the rich gold deposits in her community has destroyed families. She says almost all the young men involved in artisanal mining lead violent lives.
“Beer outlets have flooded Esigodini targeting artisanal miners. Once the gold miners get money from the proceeds of their work, they go for beer drinking in big numbers. Violence normally ensue and at times some miners get killed. The miners have no time for their families and they see women as a burden.
Tendai says she did not report the matter to the police or go to the hospital because her family and community discouraged her. She says she was also coerced to go back to her husband after the violent altercation.
“Esikhoveni is a patriarchal society where it is normal for men to abuse their wives or girlfriends. My husband was just reprimanded to stop the violence but I know that this was just a way of enticing me to go back to him. I know I am not safe around him. I have nowhere to go so I just have to live in fear,” says Tendai.