Every society invents its own language. Small scale and artisanal miners in Zimbabwe seem to have a bountiful of terms to describe their day to day struggles and aspirations.
In Mberengwa, ‘Kuvhuna’ which literally means to break is one concept that under an era where formal employment has plummeted, becomes topical.
The average small scale let alone artisanal miner lacks working capital to fund operations and pay for labour. This rather peculiar situation has given rise to an innovative arrangement between most claim holders and their labour force.
In fact, the workforce has become partners to most operations. They know what they want and essentially broker terms of their engagement.
Most labour contracts in small scale mining function in a pretty simple manner. Prospective employees search out for claims where they suspect that the resource is rich.
The owner of the claim can also go out in search of partners. Upon reaching an understanding between holder/ ‘sponsor” a deal is hatched which generally stipulates a percentage to be shared between the parties.
Generally, the claim holder or sponsor will commit to providing a minimal level of start-up capital which includes food, a compressor, basic ore haulage equipment, otherwise known as “Ndirayi”, and explosives.
In return, he/she is entitled to anything between 40-60 percent on the gold returns at the gold milling plant and in addition also gets back their initial capital. The remainder of the money is distributed to the labour partners.
When this deal works well, it makes for a perfect partnership. The miners will mine, the claim holder or sponsor provides initial capital and at the end of each milling cycle which could be anything between days to months, its payday.
Trouble starts when expectations are not met by results at the milling plant. Unlike more developed mines, most small scale miners get to know about how much they have made at the end of milling cycle.
What this does is that most of the miners are really prone to the vagaries of their imaginative world. A miner may, for instance, believe that their ore will give them 100 grammes of gold and yet they get only 10 grammes or less. It is at this point where the unspoken arrangement in the labour agreement reveals itself.
In most instances, that’s when ‘Kuvhuna’ occurs. Simply said the miners clandestinely disappear only to reemerge elsewhere where they believe their fortunes may be better.
There is no advance notice and certainly no labour package. Claim holders or sponsors may just wake up to be told your entire workforce is gone.
Is Kuvhuna Good or Bad? Why don’t we start a conversation with Great Dyke News 24?