AFTER ripping Zimbabwe’s economy apart last year, the COVID–19 pandemic spilled into 2021, infecting people and taking lives at an unprecedented scale.
While this was bad enough, a new phenomenon gripped Zimbabwe.
Large swathes of mineral fields parcelled out to Chinese investors relapsed into chaos this year, as they moved to exploit “their assets”.
But many of them have run into problems with communities settled on these claims.
The truth is so much has not been done correctly, especially the claim allocation process, and investors have ended up exploiting minerals in protected areas, or on farmland.
Surprisingly, the Chinese have been stubborn.
Instead of lending an ear to the communities, they have forced their way into villages, pegging roads in people’s yards and decimating protected environments.
As if that was not enough, some Chinese have boasted that Zimbabweans have no rights over their land — the worst insult nationals can be subjected to by foreigners.
But what is clear is that Zimbabwe is at crossroads, with mining belts from Chiredzi to Mavuradonha, and from Hwange to Mutoko and Murewa under dispute, as the new investors force their way into villages, while central government watches from the sidelines.
Never before has exploitation threatened to tear this country apart, while downbeat poor people cry for help that has not been forthcoming.
This is why the 10th edition of the Zimbabwe Alternative Mining Indaba, which kicked off in Bulawayo yesterday, is important.
The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association and the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development, which organised the conference, must push for questions that will force authorities to explain the chaos.
They must make it clear if their allegiance has shifted from Zimbabweans to Chinese corporations.
It is clear that government officials are taking sides with big business — a shocking development that could confirm reports that khaki envelopes have been moving under the tables to grease authorities as tycoons rush to loot Zimbabwe’s resources with reckless abandon.
Zimbabweans look forward to answers this week.