A conflict is brewing between mining companies and conservancy owners in Matabeleland North after the government awarded mining licences in areas reserved for wildlife conservation.
On Wednesday, Mines and Mining Development minister Obert Mpofu accused some “organisations” of blocking licenced companies given special grants to mine in the area.
He also accused conservancy owners of engaging in poaching activities.
But chairperson of the Hwange-Gwayi Dete Conservancy and Tourism Association, Langton Masunda, yesterday accused Mpofu of “politicking”.
Masunda said President Robert Mugabe was a signatory of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA), involving Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola,Namibia and Botswana, the area being targeted by Mpofu.
Speaking during the launch of the Mining Loan Fund in Umguza on Wednesday, Mpofu said: “We approved special grants in Matabeleland North for indigenous people to mine but we see people holding meetings at Halfway (Hotel) saying they are hunting, but they do not employ anyone.
“Some of them are poaching and are anti-development and reactionaries.
“We have approved 18 concessions in the Matabeleland region and we are going to approve more.
“They were approved a year ago, some have started but others cannot start because of threats from these elements.
“The mining law supercedes any other law because that is where the economy is.
“The economy is being driven by the mining sector and we don’t want that thrust to be derailed or interfered with by people who do not seem to understand government policies.”
However, Masunda accused Mpofu of being dishonest.
“There are more than 60 lodges in the Gwayi area and the national park is employing more than 600 people and the Forestry Commission more than a 1 000 people,” he said.
“It is not a new thing that coal has been discovered in the area, but let us look at both resources.
“The environment and wildlife is renewable but if you establish the mines, the coal will be finished at some point and the wildlife will never return.
“How can someone give a mine at a national park? What are the effects to the tourism sector, which employs a lot of people?
“A quarter of the conservancy contribute a lot of revenue to the fiscus in consumptive and non-consumptive areas.”