THE public spat between government and villagers in the Dinde area of Hwange over the disputed coal-mining project run by Chinese miners makes sad reading and once again shows Zanu PF’s tendency to ride roughshod over the rights of citizens it purports to safeguard.
The project, run by Chinese firm Beifa Investments (Pvt) Ltd, has been failing to take off the ground since 2019 owing to resistance from villagers who fear the coal-mining venture would eventually displace them from their ancestral land.
But Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister Richard Moyo had the guts to tell the jittery villagers that the project would go ahead with or without their consent, saying those who dare resist would face the full wrath of the law. His argument was that the project is of national importance as it seeks to generate employment as well as electricity for the country.
The Zanu PF honcho added that government would not hesitate to deploy armed police to “protect” the investor. But the question is: if the villagers don’t see value in the project why should government bureaucrats foist it down their throats?
The development comes shortly after attempts by government to evict more than 12 000 families from Chilonga area in Chiredzi to make way for a lucerne farming project run by a private dairy company faced similar resistance. Even though the villagers have resisted the move, it appears the second republic is determined to forge ahead with the project as it seemingly respects capital more than citizens’ rights.
While we have no problem with investment coming into the country especially at a time when the country is facing an economic crisis characterised by skyrocketing cost of living, three digit inflation, massive retrenchments and industrial capacity utilisation of less than 50%. However, investments must not come at the expense of the livelihoods of the same communities they are supposed to serve.
The crass and heartless treatment of the villagers by government when investors move into an area is self-defeating as the very people who are supposed to be the major beneficiaries of the investment end up being the major victims of the same.
Reports of graves being desecrated in the name of investment as well as attempts to have investors carry out mining activities in wildlife conservancies smacks of desperation by a cash-strapped regime.
As the Centre for Natural Resources Governance director Farai Maguwu observed: “Not a single community affected by mining is smiling in Zimbabwe, but the rich and powerful are ready even to spill blood to impose organised criminal gangs on communities. Any project or investor that is imposed on a community will not benefit that community. It is organised crime and will benefit criminal networks. Dinde is a replay of Marange (diamond fields).”
We cannot agree more with his views.