By Tinashe Mungazi
Efforts by the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Richard Moyo to break a stand-off between Dinde villagers in Hwange and a Chinese investor hit a brick wall with the villagers insisting the coal mining project should not go ahead.
Moyo was forced to face angry villagers alone after Mines minister, Winstone Chitando was in no show in an effort to break an impasse between the villagers and a Chinese mining company, Beifer Investment.
The impasse has been raging since 2019, after villagers blocked exploration works.
Speaking during a meeting held in Dinde on Thursday the villagers told the minister that they would not allow the Chinese company to do any work in the area arguing that they were never consulted.
“Honourable minister, the Chinese company gained entry in Katambe village with machinery to do a mining project in early December 2019 without consulting the community. Villagers, village heads and the entire community are not feeling very uncomfortable about the move and have this to say.
The villagers said the project was a violation of their constitutional rights as they were not consulted while accusing the company of clandestinely producing an Environment Impact Assessment.
“As a community, we are worried about the threats to our constitutional rights posed by the project and therefore we have requested for the environmental impact assessment which was done during prospecting. We believe that if that EIA is there, it was acquired clandestinely because we were not consulted as locals.”
The villagers expressed scepticism and reservations over the minister’s insistence that the company be given a chance to explore arguing that Chinese investors had a tainted record in some parts of the district and around the country.
“In as much as we may want development these kinds of companies cannot be trusted as they have a bad track record. Elsewhere in Zimbabwe from Marange there are people who were displaced by Anjin to ARDA transit and they were built substandard houses and do not have access to clean water or land for subsistence farming. So we don’t want to fall into the same predicament. In Deka livestock had stillbirths or miscarriages because of drinking contaminated water. Our savings are in livestock which supports us as we receive low rainfall. If an exploration borehole hits an aquifer we will have Acid Drainage Mining which has proven difficult to manage the world over.”
Speaking after the meeting, Minister Moyo said he had noted the villagers’ concerns and would brief Minister Chitando.
“There was an information breakdown between the community and investors that’s what the people were concerned about. There is a law of which the ministry of mines had already given them the green light to explore. So they will be given an opportunity to consult with the villagers after they identify where they want to mine and present an agreed way forward. But for now, we will talk to the minister he is the one who knows what should be done. But what I know is that there is nothing to stop the company from exploration, ” said Moyo.
Beifer Investment consultant, Joshua Munumbwe said while they would still continue to engage the community although the company was only given permission to do exploration works and has not commenced any mining activities.
The highly publicised meeting was also attended by service chiefs, non-governmental organisations and political party representatives.