A CHINESE coal mining company has allegedly started exploration for coal at a family cemetery in Dinde, Hwange, Matabeleland North province, in a move which has been condemned as disturbing, traumatising and unconstitutional by a local human rights advocacy group.
The Beifa Investment (Pvt) Ltd coal mining project has caused an outcry among Dinde villagers who face possible eviction from their ancestral lands.
Government has defended the project as pro-development, citing unlimited job opportunities for the unemployed youth in Hwange district and the whole wildlife-rich province.
The company also intends to construct a 270-megawatt coal-fired power plant.
As exploration in the area continues, there have been reports that the Chinese company has encroached onto a family cemetery.
Farai Maguwu, the director for the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), said investigations by the advocacy group showed that the mining giant was drilling at the Longwane family cemetery.
“A cemetery is the most sacred place in any community in Zimbabwe such that even the people of that community cannot just visit it as and when they want to,” Maguwu said yesterday.
“To allow foreigners to come there and dig or explore for minerals is a desecration of the cultural values of that community and Zimbabwe as a whole.
“It is a violation of section 16 of the Constitution, which states that government and all institutions of government shall respect the cultural values, heritage of this country. So when government is inviting foreigners to desecrate holy places in communities and undermine our values … it is now acting outside the constitutional mandate that it has.”
Hwange Central shadow legislator Reeds Dube (Zanu PF) added: “I am not sure of the development, but I overheard some people saying the same thing. As you may be aware, one of my boys is not allowed to go to his homestead by the bail conditions, we are all not clear of what is happening at our home.”
In April, some villagers, including a local Zanu PF area chairperson Never Chuma, who is also the Dinde Residents Association deputy chairperson, were arrested and released on bail for staging a protest against the Chinese coal-mining venture.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister Richard Moyo, however, labelled CNRG and critics of the coal-mining project as “noise-makers”.
“They have started again, they are noise-makers who are against development. No one is complaining about the project save for such organisations and pensioners out of sour grapes as they cannot be employed because of old age. This is a big project bringing jobs among other development initiatives,” Moyo said yesterday.
In April, Beifa Investment lodged a complaint against Chuma and Dube for allegedly inciting community members to beat up company officials.
Zanu PF responded by threatening its supporters against opposing the project.
Dinde is home to thousands of Nambyas and Tongas who settled in the area several decades ago. Newsday