Chinese coal miner under siege in Hwange

On Friday, an HCG official said over 2 400 tonnes of coal had been forcibly removed from the mine following a stand-off that was punctuated by gunfire.

A Chinese coal miner in Matabeleland North’s Hwange area is under siege after its former business partner Philcool Investments broke into the company premises to “loot” several tonnes of coke worth over US$500 000.

This publication was told that security details at the Hwange Coal Gasification Company (HCGC) had a torrid time last week when Philcool deployed trucks to seize the coke over some alleged outstanding payment.

Philcool, which is owned by controversial businessman Shepherd Tundiya, was armed with a provisional order granted in its favour by High Court judge Justice Never Katiyo allowing the company to remove 3 800 tonnes of coke from HCG’s processing plant ‘but without any interference or hindrance from the police’.

On Friday, an HCG official said over 2 400 tonnes of coal had been forcibly removed from the mine following a stand-off that was punctuated by gunfire.

This was after Tundiya's people destroyed a precast wall and forced themselves into the premises.

“At 12pm 80 trucks had been loaded which is roughly 2 400 tonnes which had been loaded out of the 5 800 they intended to load,” the official said.

“This action will bring financial ruin to our company and perhaps cause the company to become insolvent.

“The judge arbitrarily determined the 5 800 tonnes. There is no basis whatsoever to show how the 5 800 tonnes was arrived at.”

HCGC dismissed the provisional order as fake, arguing that it was never cited in any court processes.

Last Thursday, the HCHC filed an urgent High Court application to stop the seizure of its coal but to no avail as its former business partner allegedly managed to make off with several tonnes of coal.

In the High Court application, HCGC cited Philcool, Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe, commissioner general of Zimbabwe Republic Police Godwin Matanga, officer commanding police Hwange district, Officer Commanding Hwange Police station and the Sheriff of Zimbabwe as respondents.

HCGC submitted that the provisional order was irregular in that it was neither joined nor served with the court papers.

“Despite the pending application for rescission, first respondent is intending to use the court order to force his way into applicant’s premises and cause removal of the coke in purported 'execution' of the court order,” the court application reads..

“First respondent threatens to commit spoliation and constructive contempt of court.

“There is a real risk that this will cause havoc on the applicant's business.

“On this consideration as well as the fact that the balance of equities are in its favour, the applicant asks whether the court may be pleased to grant a stay of execution pending determination of the application for rescission.’’

A source told Sunday Southern Eye that the Victoria Falls-based sheriff whose name could not be immediately established arrived at HCGC premises in the company of Philcool representatives demanding access to take coke.

HGC security guards reported the matter to their Chinese supervisors, who immediately consulted the Harare office.

Upon receiving the news, the Harare office asked the lawyer to verify the authenticity and contents of the judgment.

It is alleged that the sheriff was told that it was impossible to verify the authenticity of the judgment at night.

“At around 5:35pm, the driver of the loader brought by the sheriff attempted to push down our plant's earthen wall and forcibly enter,” a source said.

“Our security guards fired warning shots, and the loader driver retreated.

“About 20 minutes later, the loader driver again tried to push down the earthen wall and forcibly enter the plant to haul coke (at this time, the sheriff had brought seven large trucks).

“Our security guards fired warning shots again, but the driver persisted.

“Our security guards and other employees had to pick up stones and other objects from the ground and throw them at the loader, forcing the driver to retreat.”

In 2022,  former Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese ordered HCG to pay close to US$2.8 million and more than $600 000 to Philcool for damages and loss of business.

The two companies entered into a six –year transportation deal in October 2017 for the latter to transport 2 000 metric tonnes of coal. The deal went sour, and the matter spilled into court.

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