Hwange activist freed on bail

By Tinashe Mungazi

A villager arrested following skirmishes that took place in Dinde, Hwange district last week was on Saturday released on bail by a Hwange magistrate.

Never Tshuma (45) of his own homestead in Dinde who was arrested on Thursday last week after villagers besieged a site where Chinese owned mining company Beifer Investment had pitched a tent to commence exploration of coal.

The Dinde community is objecting to the Chinese company’s proposed coal mining project arguing that it would likely result in forced displacement, pollution, defilement of cultural heritage sites, environmental degradation, loss of grazing land and fields among other issues.

Tshuma was not asked to plead when he appeared before Hwange Provincial magistrate Ailenne Munamati facing two counts of inciting public violence.

He was released on RTGS10 000 bail with one of the conditions barring him from visiting Dinde, his rural home.

According to court papers, the state alleges that on 14 April 2021, Beifer Investment proceeded to Katambe village under chief Nekatambe, Dinde in Hwange where they were granted a special grant to explore coal in the concession.

The company is said to have pitched a tent in preparation to start coal exploration.

“A number of people from the local community gathered near the tent so as to know was transpiring claiming that they did not agree to the investment program. Beifer Investment did not speak to the community hence sought the assistance of police who then attended the scene. Police advised the community that the company had a special grant from the Ministry of Mines to explore coal in the area. Police advised the villagers to make their complaints in a legal way if they felt any rights may have been violated, ” read the court documents in part.

The state further alleges that Tshuma, who had not been present at the time, arrived at the scene and began to tell people that the company needed to be blocked as the community had opposed the mining activities.

“Accused person who had not been at the scene, later came and started addressing the people saying the investor must remove his tent and should not be mining in their area as they had refused the grant. He indicated that the issue of land was sensitive and can result in the death of people. Accused went on to tell the community to remove the tent immediately. The community started to move towards the tent, shouting that the tent must be removed in support of the accused person. Police intervened and warned the accused against these actions.”

On the second count, it is alleged that the following day, at around 11 am Biefer Investment, sought police assistance after a number of people had gathered near the tent.

“Whilst at the scene, the accused person came and told the villagers, to follow him and dismantle the tent. Disregarding the police presence, the villagers followed him and they walked towards the tent. Accused began to tell Beifer Investment to remove the tent before he and the villagers take action. Thereafter, the villagers started shouting, saying, ‘Remove this tent now’ Accused was subsequently arrested and he continued to order the community to accompany him to the police station. The accused person acted unlawfully. “

Tshuma who is also the vice-chairperson of the Dinde Residents Association was represented by Joylyn Change of Muviringi and associates.

The case was remanded to 17 May for trial. Some villagers thronged the Hwange magistrate court to hear the outcome of the case.

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