BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
A CHINESE miner, Liu Chong, was yesterday arrested by Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) detectives for illegally conducting mining activities in the protected Mavhuradona Wilderness in Muzarabani.
Chong, who is Labenmon Investments site manager, was arrested for contravening the National Museums and Monuments Act after he ordered his subordinates to construct a road in the Mavhuradona Wilderness where he intended to carry out mining activities.
Chong also faces charges of trespassing after he unlawfully gained access into Tingwa Botanical Reserve in the wildlife conservancy.
His arrest came barely a week after Guruve Rural District Council chief executive officer Tinos Marisa was arrested for criminal abuse of duty after he corruptly granted Chong permission to conduct illegal mining activities in the area.
It is alleged that on May 5, 2021, Marisa was approached by Labenmon Investments, who sought to be allowed access to mining sites which they claimed to be in Varden Safaris, Mavhuradona Wilderness in Muzarabani.
Despite knowing that the area targeted by Labenmon Investments was outside his jurisdiction, Marisa allegedly granted the company permission to enter Varden Safaris wilderness.
It is further alleged that acting on the authority of Marisa’s letter, personnel from Labenmon Investments forced their way into the conservancy and commenced clearing a three-metre- wide road in the conservancy.
In granting Labenmon authority to enter the protected area, Marisa is accused of overlooking the fact that Tingwa Botanical Reserve is a national monument according to Statutory Instrument 6 of 2017 awaiting World Heritage Status.
He also did not consider the fact that the papers they produced were for mining nickel in Guruve and not chrome in Muzarabani.
As a result of his actions, the chances of the Mavhuradona Safaris being listed as a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) World Heritage site were jeopardised due to disruptions to the ecosystem caused by road construction leading to the botanical reserve.
It is also believed that many animals which used the area as breeding grounds fled to unknown locations following invasion of their habitat.