Following the worst mine disaster in the country’s history, 50 years ago, Hwange Colliery Company (HCC) has remained true to its “reputation repair strategies” which include compensation and commemorations held to honour the miners on June 6 every year.
As scholar Steven Van Hook said in a 2010 publication, a crisis can be turned into an opportunity for good public relations.
A total of 427 miners died following a series of underground gas explosions while in a 5km-tunnel shaft at the then Wankie Colliery’s Number 2 shaft known as Kamandama.
It is a disaster that is difficult to forget.
However, 50 years is a very long time. Companies can easily forget or lose the historical significance of post crisis management.
The Kamandama Mine disaster commemorations held on Monday proved that while HCC has been holding commemorations consistently, the company according to widows “only remembers us once a year”.
Speaking to our news crew, Ms Senzeni Phiri, who lost her husband when her son, Mr Tapedza Makava was only two years old, said: “Before this day, we did not get anything, the company just gave us money every June, the last amount was $20 000.
“Other things we get once in a while include pots, plates and cups.”
Mr Makava added: “I struggled with my education because my mother wasn’t employed.
In fact, I was a beneficiary of the Kamandama Mine disaster until the age 18 years after which my mother had to struggle with my education.”
Mr Hilton Papenfus, whose father was a manager at HCC when the explosions killed him, said: “I came here with my wife Gillian, my sister who was 12 years when the incident struck and my son.
We come all the way from South Africa to remember my father.
It is a way of reconnecting with my father and making sure we do not forget him.
Let us continue doing this so that future generations do not forget.”
These are real victims of the Kamandama Mine disaster.
For 50 years, they have carried the wounds of losing bread winners.
They have had to eat, sleep, dress, go to school and access medical care without their fathers and husbands.
Their cry for monthly allowances or increase in the annual payment is not unreasonable.
These widows must be remembered everyday and not for only one day.
Because the crisis is national, Government can assist where it can.
For example, the widows can get farms.
Indeed, HCC has done well to continue with commemorations for 50 years.
We must never forget Kamandama!
Zimbabwe’s story is incomplete without mention of this sad chapter in our history.