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Seke villagers battle for their land rights

Granite has been a major export for Zimbabwe, with the country mining close to 230 000 metric tonnes of the rock in crude or rough trim worth US$25.8 million in 2021. Granite mining’s contribution to overall mining output has been growing steadily, having increased from 177 tonnes in 2017, 182 tonnes in 2018 to 184 tonnes in 2019.

VILLAGERS in the Seke area of Mashonaland East province are increasingly facing prosecution for resisting the operations of a granite rock mining company they accuse of destroying the environment.

Tensions have been running high since Matscandnavia Investments (Private) Limited instituted the arrests of locals accused of trespassing areas pegged out for mine prospecting.

The villagers are pushing back against the company, a subsidiary of Seven Stars Mining, which is exploring for granite in the Mayambara area without following the due process of law.

The company, through its employers and agents, has already pegged out land in four villages, namely Savanhu, Mhonda, Mhundwa and Charigwati in Seke’s Mayambara area, sparking outrage. Last month, Blessing Munemo, a councillor from Savanhu Village, dragged the company to court, seeking to bar it from carrying out any prospecting, exploration and mining activities without following the due process of law.

Munemo later told The NewsHawks that the company has set pegs in the area and is prohibiting villagers from trespassing as it continues with its prospecting plans.

“The situation is intense, they are arresting villagers on trespassing allegations,” Munemo said.

“The Marondera magistrate evaded and said he has no jurisdiction, and was working on assumptions not facts highlighted on my application. There has been no engagement with the company and they have sent me a letter demanding me to pay for malicious damage.”

As previously reported, Munemo said the company’s operations are likely to have harmful effects in the area.

On 11 March, Munemo, with the help of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, wrote a letter to Matscandnavia Investments demanding that it stop its quarry mining activities and remove the pegs because it had not complied with provisions of the law as it did not have an environmental impact assessment (EIA) certificate.

An EIA is a mandatory requirement used to assess the significant effects of a proposed project on the environment.

However, Munemo says the company instead wrote to the chief executive officer of Manyame Rural District Council alleging that he was disrupting the quarry mining project in Mayambara.

“Unwittingly, that same letter of 20 March 2024 also confirms two things. Firstly, that Matscandnavia has not yet obtained the environmental impact assessment certificate in relation to its project in Mayambara Village, Seke, and secondly, that the company is carrying out quarry mining activities in Mayambara Village, Seke, and has already pegged the area,” reads his founding affidavit.

“This has therefore prompted me to make the application on the following grounds: I am advised by our legal counsel that to succeed in an application of this nature, I must demonstrate and prove the following: (a) The existence of a clear right; (b) There is a reasonable apprehension of irreparable harm; (c) The balance of convenience favours the granting of the application; (d) Absence of protection by any other similar remedy.”

Munemo said that the local communities are on the verge of losing their grazing land should the company be allowed to continue operating without an environmental impact assessment.

“Furthermore, I submit that my apprehension of irreparable harm is reasonable under the circumstances. Firstly, villagers and I are going to effectively lose our grazing pastures, cultivating land and sacred traditional and cultural shrines to the company’s operations,” he said.

“Moreover, if the first respondent continues with its intended mining activities without any environmental impact assessment having been done and approved by the [Mines ministry] 2nd Respondent, it would effectively mean that I and my fellow villagers would be staying in the midst of a mining location and we would be exposed to unmitigated and unassessed environmental hazards.”

“Such a situation exposes us to an unhealthy and unsafe environment as we do not know the environmental impact of the company’s mining activities and measures to mitigate such effects.”

Munemo also said the community is set to suffer irreparable harm if the interdict is not granted and the company continues with its intended mining operations.

“I submit that there is no alternative remedy to confer us with protection from the company’s shenanigans. We instructed our lawyers to write to Matscandnavia, their letter dated March 20, which followed our letter of demand clearly shows that they will not be deterred unless stopped by this Honourable Court,” he said.

“It is therefore clear that the company is not going to stop at anything unless it is stopped by an order of this Honourable Court.”

Granite has been a major export for Zimbabwe, with the country mining close to 230 000 metric tonnes of the rock in crude or rough trim worth US$25.8 million in 2021.

Granite mining’s contribution to overall mining output has been growing steadily, having increased from 177 tonnes in 2017, 182 tonnes in 2018 to 184 tonnes in 2019.

Several local and international companies have been plundering black granite from Mt Darwin, Murewa and Mutoko, making millions of United States dollars in the process while local villagers are wallowing in the depths of poverty and despair.

In 2022, the government through Statutory Instrument 127 imposed a ban on raw granite exports, except with the authorisation of the minister of Mines, following an outcry over irresponsible mining by major entities. – (NewsHawks)

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