Villagers in Dinde village, Hwange district have petitioned Beifa Investments, a Chinese-owned mining company, exploring for coal in the Dinde area to halt any mining activities which they claim are violating the culture and heritage of the Nambya people.
Beifa Investments torched a storm recently when it started exploring for coal in Ward 13, Dinde without consulting villagers.
The villagers fear over 600 families will be displaced if the project continues and have accused local leaders including the traditional leader, Chief Nekatambe and Hwange Rural District Council officials of nicodemously allowing the mining company to continue carrying out the exploration work despite their protests. They also fear their relatives’ grave graves and sacred shrines will be violated.
A rural women’s roundtable meeting organised by the Matabeleland Institute For Human Rights (MIHR) also addressed the issue.
Thembelihle Dlamini, a villager in Dinde and a committee member of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe said there was panic in Dinde Village as eviction was imminent.
“The company did not even consult us that they have intentions of coming to operate at our place. The company is now digging our graves. They should have asked for permission from us, probably we would have performed rituals on these cemeteries,” Dlamini said.
She said the Dinde village is living in fear of eviction.
“We have built schools, clinics and as women, we have our businesses that we have established there.
“As I am talking now, about 600 families or even more are affected. Recently, precious stones were discovered in about four villages in Hwange.
“All those communities will be evicted,” Dlamini said as she appealed to the government to save the community from eviction.
“We also have our river called Nyanduwe and there is gas that is emitted from their working place. It might affect our water and this would make us sick. We are faced with danger as we are prone to contract diseases in the area.”
The Chinese miners are reportedly claiming that they have a special grant from the government, however, they have not produced it despite several demands for them by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
The villagers’ petition being circulated to gather more people’s signatures reads: “Beifa Investments and Hwange Rural District Council did not carry out proper consultative meetings with the communities and hence this has brought about conflict with the communities involved and Hwange district at large.”
Dinde is home to thousands of Nambyas and Tongas with a majority of Tonga who first settled in the then-named Whange district up to Victoria Falls.
They were resettled in Dinde after their relocation from Sinamatela area in the 1920s to pave way for the Hwange National Park.
An environmental consultant, Oliver Mutasa said there was little the community can do to stop the exploration process.
“Unless if it’s an ecological area like a national park, but unfortunately for an area like Dinde, once a special grant is given, mining activities cannot be stopped,” he said.
“However, if there should be displacement, there should be compensation. Sometimes people lose out on compensation because instead of contributing to the EIA they oppose the whole process. What people need to do is contribute on what they want the miner to do as part of corporate social responsibility.”
MIHR coordinator Khumbulani Maphosa said the government must formulate a human rights-based framework to prevent development-induced evictions.
He said human rights constitutional bodies should be involved first whenever there is an eviction
“Then they do the impact assessment. We trust these commissions better than these consultants hired by the companies because they are paid by the company. These commissions we trust because they are for us,” Maphosa said.