Rachel Ingabire, a 32-yearold miner enters a tunnel in Murara mining site in Kanazi Cell in Bugesera District where she earns between Rwf40,000 and Rwf60,000 a month that she says has helped her to provide for her two children and cover their basic needs.
But, Ingabire, who has been carrying out mining activities for five years so far, has one concern: she has no social security coverage under the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) at least to get pension benefits when she retires from the mining job.
She dropped out of school while in senior two and now she extracts and carries a mixture of sand, coltan and cassiterite in a sack through the uneven tunnel to a filtering site to separate the minerals from the sand. The filtering site is some 300 metres from the mine opening.
She said that thanks to her mining job, “I get community health insurance fees- Mutuelle de Santé and my children are assured of food, ” adding that she also has five goats and 13 chicken she got from mining activities.
So, what will her days look like when she is not able to carry on with her job that enables her earn her daily bread, and has no social security?
According to RSSB, a retired worker gets pension benefits after they have spent at least 15 years contributing to the social security-pension scheme while they were still working.
The retirement age is between 60 and 65 years. But, for people who do energy-demanding tasks such as mining, one might become too weak to work earlier than expected due to risks associated with it such as accidents and diseases.
She said that social security is important “because it can make us insured for our future welfare.”
“We get our pay on time and meals at work but, we have not yet reached that level. We told him [our employer] that we need it and he welcomed the idea because we work diligently and generate revenues in both his and our development interest. I think he is ready to do that for us,” she told Sunday Times.
Another miner, Emmanuel Mbonankira, 36, father of six, recognizes the importance of ‘saving for a rainy day’, through the social security scheme so that he gets pension when he is unable to work in the future.
On average, he gets about Rwf60,000 per month that helps him provide for his family and cover annual community health insurance – Mutuelle de Santé.
“We, as miners, we try to save by ourselves,” he said calling for coverage of social security under the pension scheme.
Innocent Mulindahabi, the Manager of the COPABAMANYA cooperative which extracts coltan and cassiterite in the Murara mining site, said that “miners get their wages based on the work they have done,” pointing out that the management will have talks with them on how contributions to the social security can be deducted from their pay.
Officials back universal access to social security
Speaking on Friday, during the celebration of the World Day for Safety and Health in Bugesera District, Gaspard Musonera, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Public Service and Labour (MIFOTRA) said that the government will continue to do all it takes to ensure that people working in mines have improved livelihoods.
In that regard, he said, miners should have a good and timely pay and that the ministry deployed labour inspectors to ensure that this directive is observed.
“It is a law, not a choice, to insure a worker’s social security, their retirement,” he noted.
Africain Biraboneye, the Executive Secretary of Rwanda Workers Trade Union Confederation (CESTRAR) said called for social security coverage all the workers in to mining and other informal sectors.
“We request MIFOTRA and RSSB to help such workers to access social security for retirement and occupational diseases,” he said.
Speaking to Sunday Times, the Chairman of Rwanda Mining Association (RMA), Jean Malic Kalima, said that the association put in place a policy on how social security insurance can be done, but noted that the move was challenged by the instability of some miners who spend three or six months and leave the occupation for other activities.
He said stable miners are estimated to be 50 percent.
“We want to promote the mining sector in Rwanda, and we are also sensitising the miners to have stability in their work because it is that stability that leads them to access facilities like social security insurance to help them in their future,” he said.
The Occupational Hazards and Benefits Division Manager at Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB), James Nsabimana, said that it is the rights of workers to get social security insurance regardless g.
“Any worker getting salary should get social security. As RSSB, what we will do is to make sure that laws are respected,” he said
Figures from Rwanda Mining Association show that, as of 2013, there were about 34,000 employees in the mining sector. According to figures from Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the number of working people with main job in the sector will increase to 60,000 by 2017/2018.