Reflections Of a Zimbabwean Artisanal Miner

[Image description: black and white photograph of the mouth of a mineshaft.] Chetan Kolluri / Creative Commons

[Image description: black and white photograph of the mouth of a mineshaft.]

Chetan Kolluri / Creative Commons

In the gloom of a seemingly bottomless pit
An artisanal miner chips away at the belly of the motherland

He moans
As sharp stone splinters a bite into his bare feet
But the pain cannot sway his resolve
Despite the energy seeping away from his hands

He can barely see a foot in front of him
As his paraffin lantern flickers dimly at the entry
His makeshift oxygen tank dries up
And he tries to look at his friend

He gasps for air
Summoning his failing hand
And tugs at the string tied to his waist
In a feeble effort to rise

He is the prey of poverty and a plundered economy
The subject of scorn in a society shaped by stereotypes
For to them he is the devil incarnate
Further ravaging the rugged ravines

An enemy of the state

As the band pulls him upward to safety
His rasping breaths tell the story of his tattered lungs
Heaving and sighing to the rhythmic beats of another companion
Now chipping away in the mineshaft

Disused pits stare back at him
Like a hungry puppy salivating at the scrapping of pots

The gaze is not friendly

He turns to a half-dozing colleague
Their unasked questions reverberating loud in their hearts
As they eye one another in familiar recollection

Who is better off?
Those working for peanuts
At the multinational monster companies?

Or us?

Is our damage to the environment
With our picks and shovels
Not somehow better by comparison
Than their elephantine earth moving trucks?

What have we done that we are derided
By our own government
Just the same way our fathers were subjugated
By the colonial establishment?

Where is the good governance and integrity? 

For while we mine for personal consumption
The companies extract for expropriation

As we sweat to buy a chisel
They struggle to store their gallons of diesel

And even as our kith and kin chase after us
Our brothers toil under their modern slavery


Donald Takudzwa Nyarota is a Zimbabwean poet, passionate about freedom of expression, human rights, economic justice, and development. He is a free spirit spitting poetical political satire. Find him on Twitter