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Serenje Manganese miners suffering from erectile dysfunction

ABOUT 35 men working for a manganese processing plant in Serenje District are said to be suffering from erectile dysfunction and have been attacked by a strange ailment which renders their bodies constantly quiver.

And the Centre for Environment Justice (CEJ) has raised alarm at the development and has called on the authorities at the Workers Compensation Fund Board (WCFB) for compliance checks at the manganese company from which the people affected have been working.

As of now, the victims are waiting for a detailed medical report. 

Maggie Mwape, the CEJ executive director has urged the WCFB to respond immediately for compliance checks and negotiate for fair compensation.

Speaking after visiting the victims in Serenje, where CEJ is running a three year project dubbed Resilient Initiative for Sustainable Environment – RISE project, Ms Mwape expressed concern that the condition of the victims was suspected to have emerged from a toxic chemical used to enhance manganese grade.

It is believed that constant exposure to manganese could have caused neurological degenerative condition, leading to erectile dysfunction and body quivering.

Ms Mwape stated that victims complained to her that the condition was also affecting the nervous system resulting in erectile dysfunction. 

In a statement issued to the Daily Nation, Ms Mwape called for an evacuation abroad for specialised treatment of the victims.

“Workers get paid K1, 700 with majority working as casual workers receiving K5 as over-time per hour,” Ms Mwape said. 

Ms Mwape demanded for improved health and safety in processing plants in Serenje to save lives as workers were not receiving milk, personal protective equipment and did not get full salary payment while nursing wounds when injured at work.

“We demand that the Ministry of Health conducts urgent official tests on the victims and provide them with full detailed medical report on the condition,” Ms Mwape said. 

Ms Mwape urged the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment to give a position on the said chemicals allegedly bought in Kabwe for use in Serenje which has turned out to be a health hazard to the workers.

“Zambia Environmental Management Agency – ZEMA should go on the ground in Serenje to assess the situation than waiting for periodic reviews when the atmospheric conditions clearly show that most investors are irresponsible emitters,” she said. 

Ms Mwape has since challenged the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Development to give an official statement on the manganese processing investors in Serenje. 

“Without a doubt, we need mining investors, create a balance for the economy, environment and employment. But I must emphasise that we need responsible investors who shall respect the laws and regulations of the land, do not exploit our people and uphold human rights principles,” she said.

Ms Mwape wondered if the Foreign Missions accredited to Zambia were aware about the environmental and human rights violations happening in Serenje.  

“We want to question the High Commissioner of India to Zambia and the Ambassador of China to Zambia on whether they are aware of the irresponsible behavior by some of their nationals and how they are damaging the reputation of their countries because such countries have good investors but some of those in Serenje cannot be intertained,” she said. 

The CEJ Executive Director has further urged Government to strengthen due diligence to audit the background of investors through security wings because some of those operating in Serenje were shut down in their own countries for violating environmental laws, human rights and health.

“We demand for action on bad investment practices especially on the levels of pollution and damage to the environment coupled by the loss of inhabitants including human beings as seen in Serenje,” she said. 

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