By Tinashe Mungazi
Mining companies working in the Hwange district are neglecting their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) obligations and are not investing in community development resulting in constant clashes with locals.
Companies especially those extracting or processing coal have been accused of neglecting their obligations but instead, continue to loot local resources leaving communities poorer in the process.
Locals have often complained of damages to infrastructure such as roads, noise, water and air pollution as well as environmental degradation.
They argue that the companies have done little or nothing to rehabilitate, construct or support community development initiatives.
In a bid to resolve some of the conflict Minister of State for Matabeleland North Province Richard Moyo announced that an all stakeholders dialogue meeting with companies and investors working in the district will be convened to compel the companies to honour their obligations.
This comes on the backdrop of growing tensions between communities that are threatening to block Chinese miners from operating in the area accusing them of damaging Deka road.
The road which has become impassable links Hwange urban with rural communities such as Chachachunda, Mwembe, Simangani, Deka, Sidinda, Jambezi, Makwa and Binga.
The road is a also a gateway to some tourist attractions such as the Zambezi River.
Villagers recently threatened to block the companies which have been taken over by Chinese investors from using the road citing continued disregard for people’s pleas.
Locals have complained that the damage to the road is impacting them negatively as public transporters are now shunning the areas or overcharging while private motorists were incurring huge costs to repair their vehicles.
Addressing villagers in Dinde recently Minister Moyo said it was high time companies exploiting natural resources in the district meaningfully plough back into the community.
The minister sought to intervene in the standoff pitting Dinde villagers and Chinese investor, Beifer Investment over a proposed coal mining project.
He said social services such as schools, clinics and provision of water were key to improving the livelihoods especially ensuring accessibility of maternal care for expecting mothers who were subject to long distances.
“Expecting mothers should not walk or travel long distances to access maternal services, clinics should be built by these investors to show there is activity taking place. The road infrastructure should improve. We have schools that need to be built or maintained to ensure education is accessible to our children. All this can be done where companies take responsibility.”
Moyo warned the companies that were dilly-dallying in rehabilitating the Deka road arguing that authorities would be forced to take measures.
“Along Deka, there are many mines there and I’m aware that there is a road which they damaged but are taking a wait and see attitude to see who will start repairing the road. They have the money but simply don’t want to and because of that, we are going to take them to the task. Our infrastructure and things are being run down yet these same companies are benefitting and leaving us with nothing. We need to work together to ensure that we all benefit from natural resources. Yes, we want investment but our people should benefit also outside of employment opportunities. We don’t want to be labelled who refused investments so let’s supervise these investors.”
Though Moyo did not specify the date, an official told CITE that the move was imminent as it was meant to address the growing contention of Chinese investors by villagers which often led to resistance to projects.
Hwange has of late seen a coal rush as investors mostly Chinese have flooded the district to mine and process coal. Others have gone further to build Thermal power stations albeit with little community involvement which has brought anger among communities in the mineral-rich district.
The government recently announced that it had licensed 25 companies to extract coal in the district a development that comes with both positive and negative effects according to villagers.