Shurugwi community threatens mass action against mining companies

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Traditional leaders under Chief Nhema have vowed to take action against corporates and individuals involved in mineral resource extraction in the area over their failure to plough back to the community.

This came out during a traditional leaders – community dialogue organised by Centre for Natural Resource Governance and Midlands Natural Resources Agenda with the support from Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

The dialogue was held at Chief Nhema’s court and was attended by over forty traditional leaders who included headmen and village heads, the local Councillor and scores of villagers. They all expressed frustration with the failure by either the government or the mining entities in the region to ensure platinum proceeds are used for the development of the area. The road infrastructure in the area is in bad shape. Unki Mine only constructed a short stretch of tarred road from the Gweru – Zvishavane highway to its premises.

Failure to employ locals was raised as a major concern by several speakers. Headman Fundira said its high time traditional leaders become pro-active and challenge the economic injustices associated with mining in the region.

“Mines like Unki have been extracting platinum here for some time but they have not done anything for the community. They do not even employ our children.”

He said at one point villagers mobilised each other and went to demand employment for their children and Unki mine responded by calling the police to disperse them.

Besides Unki platinum mine, there are several small scale Chinese and indigenous mines owned by political elites that are causing havoc in the district.

Chief Nhema said he has tried to engage Unki mine demanding that his community benefits from its platinum but the company told him that it could not do anything because it does not have title to the land.

“I tried to implore them to use the Bafokeng model but Unki mine told me that in Bafokeng, miners have title deeds of the land they are using that is why they are developing the surrounding areas,” he said.

Lorraine Chiponda spoke of the need for the community to audit their environment as part of documenting the grave effects of extractivism in Shurugwi.

“Environmental audits help communities gather evidence of ecological destruction caused by mining. It is a good thing that there are elders among us and these are the people who know the trees, mountains and caves that were used for ritual purposes. The same people know areas which did not have gullies but are now rugged. We need to audit our environment and use the evidence to hold miners to account,” she said.

Centre for Natural Resource Governance Director Farai Maguwu implored Shurugwi traditional leaders to remain steadfast if they wish to last the distance in the struggle against mineral resource looting by corporates and powerful individuals. He said it is critical to see the unmined assets as wealth stored in a bank and extraction as withdrawal of that wealth which he described as natural capital accounting. He said the community must ask itself questions on what they have gained ever since mining corporations started extracting platinum, adding that if one has no good plan of how to use their money it is safer to leave it in the bank until the appropriate time. He said natural resources are finite hence the need to add value and beneficiate locally, leading to other industries upstream and downstream, thereby creating thousands of jobs and ensuring that in the long run Shurugwi does not remain dependant on platinum mining.

Suke Kasenye called on the youths to embrace the struggle because the future belongs to them.

The traditional leaders’ dialogue was part of the build up to the Midlands People’s Convention to be held on 1 August 2019 which will bring corporates and government agencies and the community together to deliberate on the effects of Extractivism in the district and map the way forward on how best communities can benefit.

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