FEAR GRIPS MOTOKO VILLAGERS AS THEY FACE POSSIBLE EVICTION TO PAVE WAY FOR A CHINESE MINER

 In Campaigns, Front

Introduction

The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development has been parcelling out mining and exploration special grants to politically connected local and foreign syndicates disguised as ‘investors’. Mines and Mining Development Minister Chitando claims the intention is to achieve the hyped 12-billion-dollar mining economy unveiled in 2019. This ambitious drive is at the detriment of communities that are now flooded by fortune hunters armed with special grants. This has also seen special mining grants being awarded in conservancies at the expense of the tourism sector[1].  Land conflicts are emerging nationwide as communities face uncertain future due to the prospects of mining activities. Some sections of the Mutoko community, which boast of large quantities of black granite stone, now face the same challenge. 

Chingamuka, Pasirai, Tome and Karimazondo villages in Nyamukapa, Ward 11 in Mutoko are living in fear of being evicted from their ancestral land after a Chinese company called Shanghai Haoying Mining Investments P/L descended their areas. Shanghai Haoying Mining Investments P/L officials have been moving around these communities with two officers from Primechart Environmental (Pvt) Ltd, a local environmental consultant group. The Centre for Natural Resource Governance has established that the officials entered Mutoko without the knowledge of the District Leadership namely the District Development Coordinator, the Rural District Council and the Traditional Leadership. The company told the villagers to prepare for relocation to pave way for an underground granite mining project. Company officials are said to have produced a prospecting license which they claimed grants them permission to relocate people from that land, estimated to measure 178 hectares.

The community approached Headman Nyamukapa to register their displeasure on this issue.  CNRG has also engaged individuals from the affected villages and they expressed the following concerns.

Loss of livelihood and lack of compensation

Community members revealed that they rely on the land for agriculture, livestock grazing and water. Land plays an important role as it provides medicinal herbs, wood for fuel and building materials. Mutoko villagers also rely heavily on horticulture due to the availability of many aquifers that supply water throughout the year. Displacement will therefore result in loss of livelihoods and food insecurity. 

Historically, most cases of development-induced relocations in Zimbabwe have failed to adequately provide the basic needs of affected families.  The experiences of Marange families, who were displaced from their community and dumped at Arda Transau between 2009 and 2015, and over 3000 families of Tokwe-Mukosi who were relocated to Chingwizi are testimony of how relocation exercises in Zimbabwe have failed to uphold the rights of the affected communities.

Loss of Identity and Culture

For many communities, especially indigenous peoples like Mutoko villagers, their identity is rooted in their history and time-honoured cultural practices. They are held together by their traditional leadership structures. They have cultural places handed down to them by their ancestors which they hold sacred. Relocation disrupts community structures and traditions, as mining decimates sacred and cultural sites. These intangibles are nonpareil. Community members who spoke to CNRG noted that the Mutoko is home to sacred areas such as “Madzimbahwe” that are used for cultural rituals for the Buja people. The “Madzimbahwe” cannot be relocated as their significance is tied to the land where they exist. Therefore, tampering with these sites is tantamount to disrespecting traditional and cultural values, as well as the identity of a people.

Environmental and Social Impacts

Relocation of locals from their communal land will exacerbate existing inequalities. The granite mining project will likely affect community groups that are already marginalized, with less power to defend their rights. Forced relocations will have disproportionate impacts on rural women and other vulnerable people in the community such as the elderly.

Furthermore, such large-scale land acquisitions that displace communities for mining purposes will require large volumes of water and likely result in environmental degradation such as deforestation. Those that do not relocate and will be living close to the project will have to bear this burden alone, even long after the project has ended. In contrast, the people of Mutoko have been typically good environmental stewards of their land for decades.  The coming in of this mining project will exacerbate irreversible harm to the fauna and flora of Mutoko ecosystem being caused by black granite companies.

A history of looting

Black granite mining in Mutoko dates back to 1972. However, the Mutoko community has nothing to show for the 49 years of continuous extraction of the stone, also known as black diamond. Black granite mining has been politicized and patronized by politicians who facilitate the plunder in exchange for kickbacks. No efforts have been made at ensuring value addition and beneficiation at Mutoko Centre.  Such a move would ensure retention of value in Mutoko and the creation of jobs for the locals as well as the development of downstream industries.

Conclusion

The Zimbabwean Constitution has clear national objectives that guide the State and all institutions to protect citizens, observe the principle of good governance and preserve the cultural values of all Zimbabweans. CNRG calls on the GoZ to take note of Chapter 4 of the constitution (Declaration of Rights) which include but is not limited to the right to life, human dignity, clean environment, food and water, property, freedom from arbitrary eviction, whenever making mining contract decisions.

The absence of a clear resettlement policy that favors the expectations of displaced people has exposed communities to arbitrary evictions without an agreement on compensation.

CNRG thus make the following calls:

  • Minister Chitando must not be allowed to continue issuing special grants that lead to disturbance of communities without first engaging the people to be affected and working out plans to mitigate the effects of the proposed projects.
  • The GoZ should meaningfully engage local communities before awarding extractive contracts to the investors. This will give the citizens the opportunity to give or withhold their consent in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
  • Shanghai Haoying Investments P/L should also fully adhere to Chinese Guidelines on Environmental Protection in Investment and Cooperation Overseas (Guideline on Environmental Protection) which compels Chinese foreign investors to respect the values of the hosting communities.
  • Civil society should stand in support of the Mutoko people who have started to show courage in exercising their constitutional right to defend their land rights.

[1] https://allafrica.com/stories/202106280908.html

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