Parliament turns blind eye on Chinese mining violations

Watchdog petition "disappears"



Brenna Matendere

Harare—The Zimbabwean parliament has ignored a petition to stop extensive environmental damage caused by harmful gold mining by Chinese companies in Manicaland province, according to a natural resources watchdog.

Farai Maguwu, the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) director, told NewsHub that his organisation had written to the legislative house regarding the environmental violations but the petition had seemingly been discarded.

The petition specifically relate to Premier Estates near the eastern border city of Mutare.

Premier Estates is a predominantly farming area in Mutasa district in the province.

The constitution of Zimbabwe guarantees the right to a safe environment for Zimbabwean citizens and residents.

The CNRG was pushing parliament to help the affected community enjoy their rights in terms of section 73 of the constitution.

According to this constitutional provision, every citizen and resident has the right to an environment that is not harmful to his or her well-being.

It also obligates parliament and other relevant public offices to protect the environment for the benefit of present and future generations—commonly referred to as sustainable development—through reasonable legislative and alternative measures.

The constitution also requires relevant authorities to take necessary action to prevent pollution and ecological degradation, in addition to promoting conservation.

At the same time, section 119 of the constitution gives parliament the power to “ensure that the provisions of… Constitution are upheld” and that “all institutions and agencies of the State and government at every level are accountable to Parliament”

The CNRG petition was presented to parliament on 17 November 2023.

In the entreaty, CNRG noted that Xu Zhong Jin Investments, a Chinese project, was causing siltation on Mutare River along which it was extracting alluvial gold.

An investigation commissioned by Information for Development Trust (IDT) last year revealed that Xu Zhong was illegally sub-contracted by Zimbabwe Goldfields (Pvt) Ltd, a partnership between a Belarusian investor and the Zimbabwean government, to mine gold in the area.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, reportedly played an active role in setting up the Goldfields partnership.

In 2021, the Chinese company was taken to court by the family of an artisanal miner that it allegedly buried alive as it filled a mine shaft, despite reported warnings not to do so.

Mutare River is a tributary of Odzi River, which in turn pours into the already heavily silted Save River that travels all the way to the Indian Ocean.

Odzi Catchment


Reports indicate that the miner has diverted Mutare River, thereby starving the mining community of water.

The CNRG flagged another Chinese company, Sino Africa Hui Jin Holdings, for dangerous mining activities.

“Despite the existence of various government ministries and departments with the administrative authority to enforce policies to regulate the safety of the residents, blasting (by Sino Africa Hui Jin Holdings) takes place without any warning and at one time a house was destroyed by a flying rock,” reads part of the centre’s petition.

“Hills are disappearing and considering the ever-growing threat of climate change-related disasters, there is a real danger of flash floods which may claim many lives and destroy property.

“The Premier Estate community has on many occasions sent delegations to the Environmental Management Agency offices in Mutare, but no action has been taken,” wrote CNRG, which attached a detailed letter of complaint by one of the community residents.

Chinese gold, granite and  quarry investors have been accused of decimating mountains and hills with historical and cultural value in numerous parts of the country that include Dangamvura (Mutare), Makaha (Mashonaland East) and Boterekwa in Shurugwi, Midlands province.

The CNRG, which has successfully petitioned parliament in the past, is unsettled by parliament’s failure to take action on its petition.

“This (failure by parliament to respond on latest petition)  is quite sad. The petition was delivered on 17 Nov and the prayer is from people facing an existential threat from a reckless mining company that is putting the lives of Zimbabweans at risk. Parliament is there to defend people, according to the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” said Maguwu in an interview with NewsHub.

He added that they made followups with parliament through phone calls and were told the petition was accepted and referred to the relevant committee but eventually disappeared and can no longer by located.

The clerk of parliament, Kennedy Chokuda, first said the petition had lapsed because it was presented in the life of the previous parliament that was dissolved just before the 2023 general elections.

“Everything that was pending before the previous parliament lapsed at midnight on 22nd August 2023. Any person who wants their matters dealt with the current parliament must resubmit their request,” Chokuda told NewsHub.

However, when told that the petition was submitted in the life of the current parliament after the August elections, Chokuda said: “Everything that has been received has been announced in Parliament. I am surprised the author himself (Maguwu) is not following up the matter if he has not received any response from us.”

Chokuda was adamant that they were not trying to suppress the petition.

“Why should I or Parliament try to sweep anything under the carpet?” he said.

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