GOVERNMENT has defended the disputed Chinese coal mining project in Dinde, Hwange district, Matabeleland North province, and threatened to arrest villagers blocking the project.
Zanu PF Dinde area chairperson Never Chuma is set to appear in court on May 16 for trial on charges of inciting public violence after leading villagers in a protest against the coal mining venture by Beifa Investments (Pvt) Ltd last week.
Chuma, who is also the Dinde Residents Association (DRA) deputy chairperson, was released on
$10 000 bail on Saturday.
The Beifa Investment (Pvt) Ltd coal mining project has caused uproar in the Dinde community with villagers fearing eviction from their ancestral lands.
The project has been failing to take off since 2019 owing to resistance from villagers with support from human rights groups and Zanu PF members in the district.
The Chinese company started setting base in Dinde last Wednesday, pitching tents and offloading machinery. The company intends to construct a 270 megawatt coal-fired power plant.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister Richard Moyo said government would not tolerate attempts to disrupt the coal mining project, adding that armed police had been deployed to the area to “protect” the investor.
“We promised people jobs and we will not tolerate any behaviour from individuals even from our party, and others who want to play politics with this investment,” Moyo said.
On April 15, Beifa Investment lodged a complaint against Zanu PF members such as Chuma and the shadow Hwange Central constituency legislator Reeds Dube for allegedly inciting community members to beat up company officials.
“That Chinese company has its papers in order; they have shown that they have the capacity and also want to build a coal-fired plant to feed into the national grid to ease electricity challenges. As such, I have instructed police to protect the investor and arrest those ones who want to cause chaos with intent to sabotage the project,” Moyo added.
However, the Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) described Moyo’s threats to villagers as unfortunate.
“The utterances (by Moyo) … unfortunate and distressing as they reflect government thinking regarding mining since the turn of the millennium. Mining has become the single largest contributor to our economic ruin,” CNRG director Farai Maguwu said.
“Not a single community affected by mining is smiling in Zimbabwe, but the rich and powerful are ready even to spill blood to impose organised criminal gangs on communities. Any project or investor that is imposed on a community will not benefit that community. It is organised crime and will benefit criminal networks. Dinde is a replay of Marange (diamond fields).” Newsday