A showdown is looming in Dinde, Hwange district after villagers yesterday besieged a site where a Chinese company at the centre of a mining project dispute had pitched a tent as part of the process to kick start exploration works.
Around 60 angry villagers besieged the site demanding answers from Beifer Investment consultant, Joshua Munyumbwe for continuously disregarding the consultation process arguing that the dispute has not been resolved.
Beifer Investment is locked in a protracted standoff with Dinde villagers over a proposed coal mining project after the Chinese investor attempted to do exploration works without consulting the community.
As a result of the proposed project, villagers said they feared displacement, loss of field and pasture, desecration of cultural heritage sites, pollution and environmental degradation among other things.
The villagers are also bitter with the manner in which the company invaded the area. The company intends to explore coal deposits in three wards covering 470 000 ha riding on a special grant permit. The company however, contends that it will cover only 2070 ha during exploration.
The impasse resulted in the government intervening to break the stand-off through dispatching Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Matebeleland North, Richard Moyo and his counterpart Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Winston Chitando. However, Chitando was in no show during the meeting in which the villagers told Moyo that they could not allow the Chinese company to carry out any activities.
According to villagers, the consultant who was escorted by security personnel from the company started pitching up a tent to signal the start of exploration operations while the matter has not been finalised.
"When we arrived there we found that a tent had been pitched and there were two Chinese nationals and the consultant who were being guarded by two security personnel from the company. The tent was pitched around 3pm yesterday with no consultation with the local leadership which irked villagers. The consultant has no respect for the local leadership going forward with such moves will only serve to increase resistance among the people," said Never Tshuma, vice-chairperson of Dinde Residents Association.
He said agitated villagers threatened to tear down the tent before sending the team scurrying for safety with their belongings.
"There were two security guards together with the Chinese from the company who were chased away from the site by villagers. The angry people were stopped from nearly destroying the tent by Reeds Dube (Zanu PF shadow MP) who advised them that doing so would be breaking the law."
It is understood that upon hearing that villagers had besieged the site, Munyumbwe drove to Hwange and returned in the company of police officers.
Tshuma said when confronted over the matter, Munyumbwe claimed he had been cleared by an unnamed minister to commence operations.
"When we confronted Munyumbwe he said he had been given the green light by a minister he did not name to do exploration works. However, villagers argued with him that no final solution to address the standoff had been reached at the last meeting with the minister. The minister said he would give feedback to the minister of mines under whose jurisdiction the matters Falls."
Efforts to get a comment from Beifer Investment were fruitless as Munyumbwe's mobile phone went unanswered however an informed source told CITE that the commencement of exploration was above board as all requirements had been met by the company.
The police have since summoned both parties to a meeting at Hwange Police Station today over the incident.
Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)