GATHS MINE in Mashava, the Midlands was once a beacon for students aspiring to take up apprenticeships in various trades.
However, over the years, the mine which was run by the Shabanie-Mashaba Mines and formerly owned by South Africa-based businessman Mutumwa Mawere, closed shop due to viability problems.
The asbestos mine compound was fast becoming a ghost town until a year ago when it got a new breath of life when the Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) secured a 20-year lease to use the mine premises.
Mashava has now been transformed into a busy area after GZU opened its doors to about 1 000 students, with most businesses that had crumbled being resuscitated to service the needs of students.
Renovations by GZU at the mine compound saw some inhabitants being displaced while some lucky former mine workers who had gone for years without being paid secured employment at the new university.
“I used to be employed as a barman at Gaths Mine, but when it started facing operational challenges, I lost my source of income. Life has been tough and at one point I had to turn to gold panning for survival. GZU employed me in their catering services department and I now lead a decent life,” a man who only identified himself as Phiri said.
Phiri said he had no hope that Gaths Mine would ever function again adding that he now pinned his life expectations on GZU. But another former Gaths Mine employee Martin Tarusenga offered a different opinion.
“These GZU guys have taken over our lives. The remaining mine workers just woke up to be told they were being moved to King Mine where there are serious water problems, to pave way for house renovations to accommodate students,” he said.
At the height of its operations, three mines, Gaths, King and Temeraire, used to operate in Mashava.
Mercy Ruvende said: “Though the mine has not been paying salaries, we now earn a living as we rent our extra rooms to students.”
Transport operators plying the Masvingo-Mashava route said they were recording good business as some students and staff members were commuting daily to the Mashava campus.
The Mashava campus is the university’s biggest campus and has a carrying capacity of about 1 000 students and over 30 teaching and learning venues.