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The gold mine Bindura, Zimbabwe nugget of a devastated

October 21 category:Africa
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The gold mine Bindura, Zimbabwe nugget of a devastated

Cecil, 41, employee of the Freda Rebecca gold mine, which has lost 22 pounds in three years, is now paid in US dollars.

Benjamin Neumann

Great, sculpted body, flexible approach, Matthew imposes on the night that envelops the bar, a new private power times. But when it approaches the flickering flames of candles that some hint dozens of cans and bottles of beer rows behind the counter, the shadow of the colossus becomes a beanpole floating in oversized clothes. The fellow 29-year struggle to get used to her new look. Sleeve polo found on the right shoulder, he strip his biceps, the vexed air. If little strength to show ... In less than a year, he lost 12 pounds. Like many others in this Bindura bar, a small town located 90 kilometers northeast of the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare. Cecil, 41, rasta hairstyle, swimming in his blue jacket construction 58 pounds on the scale, 22 than there was three years old! Few figures better say hell combined experience of Zimbabweans in recent years under the rule of the old despot of 85 years, Robert Mugabe, the president in power since 1980. "A real tragedy. It had to stop, otherwise we would all be dead ", asserts Tendai, sitting on a rickety coffee table.

In the former Rhodesia British South, became Zimbabwe in 1980 after fifteen years of self-proclaimed independence and apartheid, nearly 14 million people survive only thanks to international aid. The country was however no so long the breadbasket of southern Africa. Never in history has a country is collapsed so quickly in times of peace. The figures are scarcely credible. The per capita income was divided by nine since 1990, falling to less than $ 100 in 2008, and unemployment affects more than 90% of the workforce. There are countless symptoms of poverty. Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans AIDS patients die without care. Last year, cholera has killed more than 4,000 people. Between 1982 and today life expectancy increased from 57 to about 37. A time ranked among the two or three most developed countries of Black Africa, backed by an educated, thousands of kilometers from paved roads, railroads, a diversified industrial base and a capital with a business center that looks like a small Manhattan, with its skyscrapers and five-star hotels, Zimbabwe has sunk. This terrifying flashback, the country owes to the clientelist policies of Robert Mugabe in the name of anti-colonial struggle, a real flight forward paranoid of a man willing to do anything to retain power. Its main feat of arms: the expulsion of white farmers - they are more than 500, against 4,500 ten years earlier - to give their land to his followers, who were anything but farmers.

But everyone wants to believe that the worst is past, and as after a violent trauma, there is a little smile. "When you start from scratch and we get to something, we can only be happy," Cecil advance. Here in Bindura, about 15 000, that something is the reopening of the gold mine, closed for more than two and a half years. Freda Rebecca, owned by mining group Mwana Africa African capital, listed on the London Stock Exchange, produced its first kilos of gold - more than 5 - Monday, October 12. For 300 employees, a date marking a milestone. Soon, having reached its cruising speed, it will produce 1.5 ton of gold in a year, and then double by the end of 2010, with 200 hires.

Located at the entrance of the city, the site turns twenty-four hours twenty-four, illuminated at night by dazzling spotlights. The continual roar of heavy construction equipment that carry the rocks torn from the basement to 300 meters deep is deafening, and the sound of explosions tore the sky, but yet all this sounds like music to the ears of the people of Bindura. "The mine is our hope of salvation," says Cecil.

A salvation that begins with a real salary. Sounding and stumbling. "We were paid for with virtual money," said Pilate Ngwenja, sitting in the tiny living room of the small brick house made available by the mine Chiwaridzo, a poor neighborhood of the city. Aged 38, employed in the finance department of Freda Rebecca, he puts on the table a Zimbabwean dollar package, which no longer apply. Notes 500 million, other 750 000 also circulated of 100,000 billion "dollars Zim" tickets. In 2008, the country experienced inflation rates ever seen, valued at several billion percent by economists. "The time to queue, prices had changed," he adds. Store managers could not accept foreign currency, which traded under the counter, at the risk of being arrested. Then the shops have closed for lack of products to put on the shelf: factories had put the key under the door and the country no longer mattered nothing.

The abandonment of the national currency in April, which was replaced by the US dollar, helped to end the monetary chaos. A new supplies, stores, also accept the South African rand and the Botswana pula, reopened. The reason for the surge is the establishment of a national unity government in February, under international pressure after disputed elections in 2008. Now the power is shared between two men who hate Robert Mugabe, the president, and Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister, founder in 1999 of the opposition MDC (Movement for Democratic Change), which has undermined the monopoly of the ruling party since independence, ZANU PF (African National Union of Zimbabwe People's Front). It is in this "positive" context, but more fragile, that Mwana Africa has decided to reopen the gold mine Bindura, reviving this city out of breath. Having already injected $ 14 million in rehabilitation work, the group will invest in ten more in the coming year.

With his first "real" payroll perceived in September, Pilate offered a stereo. It throne above television bought before the crisis like almost everything in the house. A kind of UFO technology in an advanced decrepitude universe. On the empty living room walls, white paint cracks. Threadbare, sofas have had their day. But this purchase was a way to prove that normalcy had returned to the family separated for two years. Only the youngest is at home with the mother. The 6 year old son lives with his grandmother in the south of the country, and these are the sisters of Pilate, exiled in South Africa, who finance their schooling. Pilate, he still can not afford. But he hopes to make it back next year. Without parents who fled the country to try their luck abroad - they are said 4 million - many have fallen even lower. With a brother living in England and a South African cousin, Murambiwa Davison, 46, a nurse, was able to keep his car, a Datsun out of age: he received $ 250 every two months. However, a sufficient amount to fill the tank. His wife, also a nurse, used for only a few weeks to go to work.

Sign of this slight improvement, food has become a little less nightmarish. Straight as a the screwed hard hat on the head, it is with pride that Killiard Mutsago poses in his garden at his White House Mount View, where many Freda Rebecca employees. These are not flowers it shows with a broad smile - there is none - but corn plants, feet tomatoes ... Metallurgist at the mine, 30 years old, married and the father of a child, he was transformed into a farmer during these years that seemed an eternity. Faced with the lack of food, everyone in Bindura were like him. The gardens, the least space of arable land, the whole city was transformed into a huge vegetable garden: sweet potatoes, cauliflower, corn, bananas ... Nevertheless, for many months, many have had to sacrifice a meal per day, sometimes two. But Killiard and his family can now afford again a little meat, "twice a week during the first half of the month," he said. And it is not the type to make bar hopping consuming local beer "cheap" - $ 2 3 liters: the "Scud", named after the Russian-made missiles that Saddam Hussein sent into Israel.

If even these "privileged" are struggling to make ends meet, what about the rest of the population? For those who have money, life has returned, as evidenced by the return of gleaming 4 x 4 along the flowery avenues of Harare, at the end of the dry season. For others, nothing has changed, almost. "Zimbabweans are buried alive. Every day, they try to rise to the surface to breathe some fresh air", slips a mother who does not want to give his name, in a country where paranoia is part of everyday life. Stores have reopened, but must still be able to afford what is for sale. Because Zimbabwe is one of the most expensive countries in the region. In a small supermarket in the center of Bindura, it takes $ 5 for 5 pounds of flour, 18 cents an egg, $ 1 for a pack of bread into slices or a laundry bar soap, prices almost to the level of a European capital. Due to the lack of small change, the booster is done with lollipops. So, with a monthly salary that ranges between 90 and 250 dollars, the workers of Freda Rebecca found along time between two paydays, the 25th of each month. They are not the only ones. "Life is too expensive here. The meat is $ 3.50 per kilogram. So we did everything come from South Africa," says Sandra. Sandra, the marked fifties, is a white South African. Arrived in 2005 with her husband, who works at the mine, she spends her days in a secluded villa in the residential area of ​​Bindura.

Anyway, distractions are limited. Some bars, no restaurants. After nightfall, only wood fires light the houses. Public lighting gives only rarely signs of life. No bulb illuminated the horizon. As in the rest of the country, where electricity is intermittent. Electric ranges, which feature many of the employees of the mine, were abandoned in favor of wood fires. At the back of the houses, women are again bent before the fires. "There are five, one who was cooking and was a laughing stock," says Cecil Chuchu, responsible for the maintenance of the plant that extracts gold from the rock.

Water also is a rare commodity. It runs a little in the morning, again, a little at night. For the rest of the day, to be stored. However, the waste water discharges without restraint along the roads, with their share of bacteria. "The country is broken, and the social fabric is in tatters," says Cecil.

"A Bindura, we had never seen children begging on the streets," noted Munetsi Taputaira, the doctor in charge of the dispensary of Freda Rebecca, which is expressed in a polished English worthy of British universities where he studied. "With most parents without work, many families are broken. The children have lost their bearings and have managed," he notes, bitter to the decay of his country. He also points out that prostitution is no longer the preserve of major tourist cities. A Bindura also adjacent bars of poor neighborhoods of the city, we cross the evening elongated prostitutes on the floor, wrapped in a loincloth. These are not professional, let alone young beauty queens who hunt Blanc. These are mothers who have left their homes at the height of the crisis to try their luck in Botswana or elsewhere. Low-skilled, most returned penniless. But at home, the place was taken.

So to survive, everyone is looking to take advantage of lower seam, literally as well as figuratively. All around the city, and sometimes a few hundred meters from the mine, also is active day and night to find gold. Not with explosives, but with simple shovels. Everywhere, holes, several meters deep, like so many shell craters, which is accessed underground galleries. Here, no helmets, no seat belts, only torn shirts. In fact, there is no security at all. The police bribed to look the other way, are also those who dig these minor hunger when fragile galleries collapsed on them and bury them alive. Located on the area of ​​Freda Rebecca, these holes are regularly clogged with rubble by mine employees. However, the police did not evict these illegal gold miners squatting the earliest houses built by the mine in the early 80s, when it opened. Dilapidated brick houses without water or electricity ...

In this devastated country, the miners 'official' Freda Rebecca are aware of having a plight. "If the mine holds up, we too will hold up," says Henry Mutiswa, 37, down on the sofa of her home, her baby 2 months in her arms. It coordinates the conduct of land operations in order to maintain the pace. Hold on, until the final page is turned for the country, with the departure of "Uncle Bob" as Zimbabweans call their president to underscore his age - probably his worst enemy, as person seems able to, within, or want, outside, challenge his power.


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