Gibson Mhaka, Senior Reporter
A nasty gold mine ownership wrangle with all the ingredients of a dramatic legal battle sucking in a provincial mining director is brewing in Inyathi after a mining company seized a villager’s farm with gold deposits when the owner had already discovered the precious metal.
The owner had also formed and registered a mining consortium.
Acting in solidarity with the farm owner, scores of villagers from Village 2 Famona under Ward 23 in Inyathi, Bubi District in Matabeleland North Province on Tuesday last week staged a protest against the mining company while alleging that the provincial mining director was double-faced and complicit in the seizure of the farm.
The disgruntled villagers were waving placards demonising director of Morven Mine (Pvt) only identified as T Harris for allegedly seizing Benefit Vhudzi’s farm that was allocated to him during the land reform programme.
The villagers were also accusing the provincial mining director for Matabeleland North Province, Mr Farayi Ngulube of bias after he was tasked by the High Court on 19 November 2020 to investigate and determine on the dispute.
It is reported that when he discovered the gold deposits within his piece of land, Mr Vhudzi teamed up with two other villagers, Messrs Qiniso Moyo and Clement Mpofu and formed a mining syndicate and successfully applied to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development for rights to conduct mining activities.
So nasty is the dispute that the mining syndicate called QCB Syndicate has written to the Permanent Secretary of Mines and Mining Development challenging the determination made by Mr Ngulube on 23 November 2020.
This was after the provincial mining director had allegedly written an “eviction order” directing police officers to remove the mining syndicate from the farm where it was conducting its mining operations despite the fact that his office was the one which had authorised those operations.
According to the letter in question and which is also in possession of Sunday News, QCB Syndicate through their lawyer Liberty Mcijo and Associates called for remedial action by the permanent secretary in resolving the dispute.
“Sometime in February 2020 the syndicate successfully applied to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development for rights to conduct mining activities on the claims described as Mucklenuck, Surveyors Coordinates UTM Zone (35) A 0691 974 7808 192, B0691 973 7808 671, C0692 182 7808 760, D0692 182 7808 192 comprising 10 gold reef and the certificate was duly issued in its favour. As is fully explained in the urgent chamber application filed with the Bulawayo High Court, there was no shaft or any sign of mining activities or operations when the syndicate was given the claims.
“It is important to note that when the syndicate was granted mining rights, it was after one of the members, Mr Benefit Vhudzi had acquired an offer letter from the Ministry of Lands to conduct farming activities and later formed a syndicate with other two members Mr Qiniso Moyo and Mr Clement Mpofu and prospected and surveyed for minerals.
“The pegs for the claims which pegs are all within the land allocated were assessed and approved by the Mines Office.
It was only after a lot of work had been done that one called Mr T. Harris came into the picture through the company called Morven Mine (Pvt) Ltd and his son-in-law Clive Hallamore claiming that the place belonged to them,” the letter reads in part.
They stated that when a dispute arose Mr Harris lodged a complaint with the Mines Offices in Bulawayo which resulted in the eviction of the syndicate at the instigation of Mr Ngulube.
The syndicate was aggrieved, not only by the conclusion arrived at by Mr Ngulube but also by the procedure he adopted.
“It is not clear as to how the Commissioner (Mr Ngulube) conducted his proceedings. What is, however, common cause is that at one point as evidenced by what is called a ‘determination’, the Commissioner called the parties to his office. The syndicate was invited through one of its members, Mr Clement Mpofu through telephone.
When the syndicate was invited it was not advised of the reason for the invitation. It was only after parties arrived that the Commissioner advised that he had compiled what he called a ‘technical report’ from ‘technical data’. The report was circulated and the Commissioner advised that as an office, they had reached a decision and a conclusion on the matter based on the said report and findings.”
They indicated that Mr Ngulube did not accede to either a postponement or request for the submissions to be made since he said he had already arrived at the conclusion.
“Upon request after the ‘meeting’ it was discovered that the report had been altered in some respects as the one presented during the ‘meeting’ was slightly different from the copy later served.
For example, the one presented had recorded two conflicting statements regarding existence of overlaps for it stated that on one hand there was no overlapping discovered and immediately in the next paragraph stated that slight overlapping was discovered.”
They further stated that Mr Ngulube was not objective in the manner he handled the matter.