The community of Dinde is lobbying African governments and those of other countries to help to force the Zimbabwean government to respect their constitutional rights. This as a Chinese-owned investment company, Beifa Investments is forcing 600 families out of their homes, to make way for a coal-mining project.
Human rights activist and the director of the Centre for Natural Resource Governance, Farai Maguwu told the Mail & Guardian that the centre wants China to stop financing coal projects in Africa and the one in Dinde, Zimbabwe in particular.
“The people must be respected, especially their right to live on their ancestral land without being harassed. Chinese finance should support renewable energy,which has the promise of great results for the people and the environment,” Maguwu said.
The action by the centre, a coalition of several NGOs and trade unions, is aimed at preventing the risk of major pollution and a looming environmental threat, should Beifa Investments be allowed to mine coal in the area, which is in northwest Zimbabwe, close to the Zambian border.
“The major risk is pollution of the Nyantuwe River, the only source of water for humans and livestock [in Dinde]. Due to [the] politicisation of minerals the Environmental Management Act is now ineffective, hence they [the government] can’t be trusted with enforcing environmental regulations,” Maguwu said. “Beifa Investments also intends to construct a 270 megawatt power plant which significantly affects air quality in Dinde.”
According to Maguwu, the coalition is planning to submit a petition to the Zimbabwe Mines Ministry, and international NGOs and media are paying great attention to the developments in the case.
“The Dinde case is also casting a spotlight on mineral governance in Zimbabwe, how the ruling elites are entering into personal, corrupt deals with fly-by-night investors,” Maguwu said. “Because these deals are for personal benefit, there is no consultation with people. To deal with resistance, the ruling elites are also abusing state security to intimidate and harass local communities. This is a growing concern.”
Beifa Investments has proposed relocating the people of Dinde from their ancestral land, which had stirred much conflict. However, the coalition says any possible relocation will have to be agreed to by the community first.
“The challenge is the precedent set in Marange, eastern Zimbabwe, where the government displaced 1 300 families to pave [the] for diamond mining. The moment the government and companies succeeded in moving the families off their land they broke all the promises they made before the displacement,”said Maguwu.
Neither Beifa Investments nor the Zimbabwean Ministry of Mines responded to questions from the M&G by the time of publication.
Chris Gilili is an Adamela Trust climate and economic justice reporting fellow supported by the Open Society Foundation