Villagers block mining activities at Matobo Hills world heritage site

The government has bowed to pressure from Domboshaba villagers in Matobo district to stop a mining syndicate from prospecting for gold within the Matobo Hills World Heritage Site.

Last week, miners calling themselves Mazinahue Syndicate armed with a prospecting license from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development moved into Domboshaba village to prospect for gold but were evicted by locals.

The eviction of the syndicate caused trouble for the locals who were severely brutalised by anti-riot police forcing them to flee their homes and seek refuge in the mountains.

A meeting to solve the dispute was held Saturday at Tshapo Village, attended by Matobo District Development Coordinator (DDC) Obey Chaputsira, Matobo North MP Edgar Moyo, Matabeleland South provincial police spokesperson Chief Inspector Philisani Ndebele who was accompanied by the officer in charge of Matobo -Inspector Ndlovu, Matobo Rural District Council Chief Executive Officer Elvis Sibanda and officials from the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) .

Incensed locals nudged the police to investigate possible corruption, as they questioned how the miners received a prospecting license to mine in a protected area.

In response, Chaputsira, conceded that no mining was to take place at the site and promised the locals that any such activity will stop.

“We promise you that it’s a no to this mining. The council wrote to us and as the DA’s office we also wrote a letter to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development. As the DA and leadership of this place we say no to this project,” Chaputsira said.

He added that his office would also write to the National Museums and Monuments Department, the police and the provincial leadership.

“This is a long process, as it can’t happen in one day but it will be done,” the DDC said.

NMMZ representative, Curator of Archaeology, Charity Nyathi, emphasised the importance of Matobo as a natural world heritage site.

“Our job and responsibility is to preserve culture and heritage left to us by our ancestors. One can look at these mountains and say these are just rocks but to others they exclaim ‘wow,’” she said.

Nyathi noted the village was a protected landscape within Matobo up to Umzingwane.

“As the department of museums and monuments, we deal with the law and the Monuments Act says you can’t destroy graves at a heritage site, even if it belongs to your father because it is a protected sacred site,” she said.

“These are procedures we have to follow and we are bound by UNESCO principles. If we cannot abide by them we have to seek clearance from Paris and that is a long process. After all we are the ones who sought that status therefore we must stick to it.”

Another Curator of Archaeology, Senzeni Khumalo, encouraged locals to continue safeguarding the site from outsiders.
“Last year, as the department of museums we held a meeting with you on the importance of this place. As locals you have the powers not to allow outsiders to come and destroy your heritage sites,” she said.

Khumalo noted that the NMMZ, through its archaeological impact assessments were strict on mining activity.

“We ask miners if they have proper papers and whether they passed through the mines ministry, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) who also have to carry out an environmental impact assessment,” she said.

“Heritage sites are sacred which is why mining at Hwange National Park was stopped after that realisation. We know this importance which is why we have said no to people who always apply to mine quarry from these rocks. Therefore, as locals, if you say no to such mining activity, it’s a no because you have that power.”

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