BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
HUNDREDS of villagers in the Dinde area, Hwange district in Matabeleland North are living in fear of eviction from their ancestral land to pave way for a Chinese coal-mining project.
This has attracted the interest of the Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG), a civil society advocacy group and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) who are taking legal action to stop the eviction of the villagers.
The proposed coal-mining project comes a few months after government was forced to reverse a decision to allow Chinese firms to explore for coal at the Hwange National Park.
Environmentalists took government to court in September 2020 to prevent ecological degradation after two Chinese firms, Zhongxin Coal Mining Group and Afrochine Smelting were controversially given exploration rights inside the country’s biggest national park.
The Beifa Investment Company’s coal project in Dinde is failing to take off after villagers resisted eviction.
It was alleged that the Chinese were working with the local traditional leadership, particularly chiefs, to push for the eviction of their subjects.
The Chinese reportedly claim to have been given special mining concessions by the government.
According to the Mines and Minerals Act, special grants are issued by the President in respect of land not reserved for prospecting, like communal lands.
Farawu Maguwu, director of CNRG said the advocacy group responded to the distress call of the Dinde community by visiting the area last week to gather “information about the events unfolding there.”
“We cannot be a sovereign country that allows so-called investors to come and evict our people from their homes willy-nilly. There is also a high possibility they are abusing the name of the President to put fear in the community and break down any resistance to their nefarious activities,” Maguwu said.
“Making Zimbabweans homeless, landless and destitute in their own country is unpatriotic and against the values of our society. No Zimbabwean citizen has ever evicted Chinese people off their land in China. Our dignity must be respected.”
Maguwu revealed that CNRG had engaged ZLHR to stop the evictions.
ZLHR spokesperson Kumbirai Mafunda confirmed the developments.
“Indeed, our lawyers are working together with our partner CNRG and are in the community consulting with villagers in Dinde,” Mafunda told Southern Eye early this week.
“ZLHR is worried by the ill-treatment of villagers in Dinde and we are doing all we can, including taking legal action to protect their rights which are being violated.”
Beifa Investments Company officials could not be reached for comment.
Dinde is home to thousands of Nambyas and Tongas with a preponderance of the Tonga who first settled in the then Whange district up to Victoria Falls upstream of the Zambezi River centuries ago.
They were settled in Dinde area after relocation from Sinamatela area in the 1920’s to pave way for the Hwange National Park.
The Dinde villagers’ fight against eviction is one of the many battles on the continent between environmentalists and Chinese companies financing the construction of coal plants.
In Zimbabwe, Chinese companies are undertaking, among others, the US$1,5 billion project, being carried out by Sino Hydro, which entails the building of two additional power-generating units 7 and 8 at the Hwange Power Station. Upon completion, the new units will add 600 megawatts to the national grid.
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