Mzinyathini villagers in Umzingwane, Matabeleland South are up in arms against a miner they accuse of pegging his mining claims on their farmland.
Ward 3 village co-ordinator David Mpofu confirmed the developments to Newsday’s Southern Eye saying the miner was making life unbearable for the villagers and threatening to shoot them.
Mpofu said the miner, France Ndlovu, popularly known as Leeboff pegged his mining claims on villagers’ farmland and boasts of protection from top authorities.
“We are tired of artisanal miners who cause havoc within our villages. Ndlovu has become a thorn in the flesh. He goes around claiming areas that are rich in gold deposits. He is trying to halt an irrigation initiative that is meant to benefit the whole community,” Mpofu said.
“We tried to call a meeting with him, but he did not turn up even though we had assured him that the police would be present to show him that we were not fighting him. What puzzles us is that after two days, he showed up with some certificates claiming that the place was his, but he did not physically show us what was on the certificates. Leeboff came with armed security, and villagers were not happy with the developments.”
Ward 3 village head, Jeboy Luvuno said farming was the only source of living for the villagers, adding that taking away their farmland would drive them into poverty.
“If the land is snatched away from us, then we have nowhere to turn to. When Leeboff came to claim our land, we relied on agriculture to fend for our families. Without our small portions of farmland, we cannot survive. If the law cannot protect us, then who can be our shadow,” he said.
Luvuno said Leeboff boasted that he was being backed by the government and the Chinese; hence it was good for the villagers to give up their land.
But Ndlovu denied mining on villagers’ fields, adding that he was doing his business on idle land.
“I am not mining on people’s farming land, but l pegged my mine on idle land that was deserted for over 10 years. I never threatened anyone, but l brought law enforcers as witnesses. It seems there is an individual who is up in arms with me and is influencing others to fight me. I do my activities following proper procedures, but these people who want to do gold panning are blocking my way, yet I envisage uplifting the community,” Ndlovu said.
He said the so-called irrigation scheme that the villagers claimed they had been working on started when he told the villagers that he had pegged a mine in the area.
“I work alone; it is a lie that I’m backed by the Chinese. I am not chasing away anyone because my desire is to help the community,” he said.
Matabeleland South mining director, Khumbulani Mlangeni said mining activities were not allowed on farmland.
“According to the Mines and Minerals Act, no one is allowed to prospect on arable land. The affected individuals should lodge a written complaint with the office to ensure that the issue is investigated and corrective action taken,” Mlangeni said.
There have been calls for Ministries of Mines, and local authorities to work together in issuing land as land disputes grow.