The fights between Chinese mining companies and various communities across the country point to serious problems within President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government in terms of policy direction.
From Dinde in Matabeleland North to Uzumba in Mashonaland East, communities have been fighting hard to block Chinese companies from setting up mines in their ancestral lands before any consultations with local people.
Government’s long-established policy on new mining operations is that communities that are bound to be affected by the proposed venture must be consulted before necessary licences for exploration are issued.
The mining project must also be preceded by a transparent environmental assessment study, but this does not seem to have been the case in Dinde, where a Chinese company wants to start a coal mine and in Uzumba where there is also another mining venture on the cards.
If the affected communities were consulted and the projects were above board, chances that the locals would resist the development are next to none.
In Manicaland, 28 villagers, including the 90-year-old headman Robert Chiadzwa were a week ago arrested after they staged a demonstration against China’s Anjin diamond mining company.
The Chinese miner and the villagers in the Chiadzwa area have been at loggerheads since Mnangagwa’s government allowed Anjin to return after it was booted out of the country by the Robert Mugabe administration.
At the time when the government stopped Anjin’s operations in 2016, authorities cited allegations of massive looting by diamond mining companies in the Chiadzwa area.
There were also widespread concerns that the foreign mining companies were not investing in the local community, hence the hostility by locals.
When Anjin returned after the coup that toppled Mugabe in 2017, the authorities did not bother to explain whether the issues that led to the ejection of the miner had been resolved.
The concerns raised by the communities against the Chinese company were also not addressed.
However, as shown by the Dinde, Uzumba and lately the Chiadzwa people, transgressions by foreign mining companies can no longer go unchallenged because communities are now more aware of their rights.
The Mines ministry should be more responsive in dealing with these emerging conflicts before they escalate.
There is also need for the government to be firm with mining companies whether foreign or local in ensuring that they respect the country’s laws wherever they set up operations.
The current scenario where companies are displacing villagers without following established regulations must be stopped forthwith.