COMMUNITY-BASED watchdogs have accused politicians of intimidating groups advocating for the rights of people.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
While making presentations yesterday during a governance sector review workshop for the extractive sector in Harare, Tichaona Chibuwe from the Save Odzi Community Development Trust said politicians felt threatened by the work of rights groups.
Save Odzi Trust monitors mining operations in Chiadzwa where there are reports of widespread water pollution that has grossly affected livestock in that area and far down places in Chipinge.
“We are facing several threats in our area for the monitoring project that we are doing. They think we are politicising the monitoring that we do and at some time we receive threatening phone calls from politicians and others people who do not disclose who they are,” Chibuwe said.
“Some other people, especially traditional chiefs, councillors or even those from different government departments, think we are doing politics. It’s unfortunate that they feel we are a threat to their existence.”
He added: “We cannot remain silent when our livelihoods are being destroyed because of mining operations. We are there to enlighten our communities on the need to guard against the abuse of cultural, environmental and other rights.
“Whatever they might think we are doing that will threaten their interests, we will not stop monitoring them.”
Munyaradzi Matsvai from a Mhondoro Ngezi community- based monitoring group said it was unfortunate that some politicians do not want communities to know their rights in a mining environment.
He said they had since trained 510 people to monitor platinum mining operations and he was happy that villagers were now taking an active role in guarding against abuse. Others from Shurugwi and Zvishavane said the amount of intimidation they were facing would not deter them from participating towards achieving sustainable mining.
The meeting was organised by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) and was designed to provide information to key stakeholders such as implementing partners, communities from project areas, the media and the Parliament of Zimbabwe on the progress and plans for the project.
Melanie Chiponda from Chiadzwa Community Development Trust however urged other community groups to regularise their operations so that they will not offend the law.
Darlington Muyambwa from Zela said community monitoring was important in that it made participating communities take charge of developmental issues in their area. He said that would also be an opportunity for the communities to reach out to mining companies, government and other stakeholders in an orderly manner.