A Chinese coal-mining company, Beifa Investment (Pvt) Ltd, has allegedly started exploration for coal at a family cemetery in Dinde, Hwange, Matabeleland North province.
A local human rights advocacy group has condemned the move as disturbing, traumatising and unconstitutional.
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The coal mining project has caused an outcry among Dinde villagers who face possible eviction from their ancestral lands.
Beifa Ivestiments intends to construct a 270-megawatt coal-fired power plant, with the government defending the project as pro-development.
However, Farai Maguwu, the director for the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), said investigations have established that the mining giant was drilling at the Longwane family cemetery. Said Maguwu on Thursday:
A cemetery is the most sacred place in any community in Zimbabwe such that even the people of that community cannot just visit it as and when they want to.
To allow foreigners to come there and dig or explore for minerals is a desecration of the cultural values of that community and Zimbabwe as a whole.
It is a violation of section 16 of the Constitution, which states that government and all institutions of government shall respect the cultural values, the heritage of this country.
Hwange Central shadow legislator Reeds Dube (ZANU PF) told NewsDay that he had heard about the development but was yet to confirm the reports.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister Richard Moyo, however, dismissed CNRG and critics of the coal-mining project as “noise-makers”. Moyo said:
They have started again, they are noise-makers who are against development.
No one is complaining about the project save for such organisations and pensioners out of sour grapes as they cannot be employed because of old age.
This is a big project bringing jobs among other development initiatives.
In April, some villagers, including a local ZANU PF area chairperson, Never Chuma, were arrested and released on bail for staging a protest against the Chinese coal-mining venture.
Beifa Investment lodged a complaint against Chuma, who is also the Dinde Residents Association deputy chairperson, and Dube for allegedly inciting community members to beat up company officials.
The Dinde Area is home to thousands of Nambya and Tonga ethnic groups who settled in the area several decades ago.