Alarmistic Temba Mliswa Forces Mohadi To Abandon Ground-Breaking Ceremony
A ground-breaking ceremony for a Norton-based tile manufacturing company which was to be presided over by Vice President Kembo Mohadi last Friday had to be postponed indefinitely after it emerged that the Chinese-owned company had no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate.
Norton Constituency legislator Temba Mliswa was the first to raise the red flag, forcing the vice president to put the programme on ice until the tile-manufacturer — Sunny Yi Feng Zimbabwe — had complied with all the requirements.
Mliswa also told the Daily News the intended site for the factory was part of Norton’s prime agricultural land, adding that it was being suspected that senior military officials were linked to the project.
The Norton legislator also alleged that he was being pressured to sign forms relating to the acquisition of the EIA certificate.
In a letter of concern to Aaron Chigona, the director-general of the Environmental Management Agency (Ema), Mliswa requested for clarification regarding Sunny Yi Feng’s compliance with due processes, or if such compliance had not been met.
He also requested that the tile manufacturer’s ground-breaking ceremony be set aside pending compliance.
Mliswa’s query was copied to Mohadi and Environment and Tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira, among other officials.
“In my role of oversight as a legislator, it came to my notice that a certain Chinese company was planning to open a ceramic tile factory on a piece of prime agricultural land,” Mliswa said.
He took up the issue with Ema who blocked the Chinese-owned company from launching their factory.
Ema established that the ceramic tile manufacturer had not done an EIA which is a prerequisite for setting up a manufacturing plant anywhere in Zimbabwe.
EMA’s public relations manager, Steady Kangata said the application from the Chinese tile company was only received last week Thursday.
“The application was received on Thursday, 18 October. On the whole, the process is supposed to be balanced; while the investor is pushing for economic gain, the project should be socially acceptable and environmentally friendly.
“The process should be validated by various stakeholders, including the Constitution legislator, in this case Mliswa; he should be in the know of what is happening in his area.”
Mliswa argued that over the years many Chinese companies have embarked on business operations in the country without proper compliance with the environmental impact on their operations in the community; a situation that has resulted in extreme cases of degradation.
The consultant for the Chinese company, Ngana Chaima told the Daily News that construction has already begun and the project is expected to create about 1 700 jobs in Norton.
“We couldn’t go ahead with the ground-breaking ceremony on Friday because of the letter he (Mliswa) wrote to EMA. We had applied and paid a month ago but the certificate was not availed. We don’t know what pressure he is talking about, clearly politics is at play here. He is out of the country and we haven’t been able to talk to him,” said Chaima.
“There is no military involvement in this company, it is purely Chinese and we shall be selling in Zimbabwe and southern Africa. It is frustrating; the ceremony was cancelled on Thursday afternoon, a day before the official launch.”
Contacted for comment, Mupfumira said Ema only received the Chinese investor’s application last week and it had not been given any special treatment.
“I don’t know who is pressuring him (Mliswa), maybe he might help us. If it’s someone from Ema I need the name. I know the application was only received last week and it is due to go through the same processes as any other application.
“The application came late, yet the process involves recommendations by various stakeholders, including the legislator of the area,” she said.
“I did not know about Friday’s ceremony, I don’t know about the military involvement. I only got to know about this application when Mliswa brought the matter to my
Minister of State in Mohadi’s office, Davis Marapira said it was unreasonable to frustrate investors in a context where Zimbabwe is in dire need of foreign investment.
“We are not aware of any pressure that has been exerted on Mliswa. If there is such a project that is going to create jobs for the people we have to embrace it; the project is set to provide the much-needed foreign direct investment. Why should we make matters difficult for investors who want to come aboard?” said Marapira.
“We are not aware of military elements within the firm, all I know is that we are looking for investors; this company wants to produce tiles which we can’t.
“Like any other company, it cannot start operations without satisfying Ema requirements. The bottom line, however, is that we are not supposed to be frustrating investors, especially when our unemployment rate is so high.”
Mliswa said the perception among ordinary Zimbabweans was that many businesses owned by the Chinese nationals do not comply with due process.
He said the Chinese tend to use their close proximity to top government officials as a cover to circumvent due processes and scrutiny.
The lawmaker noted that there were many Chinese-owned businesses that have ensured compliance with the country’s laws and procedures.
“Whilst many Chinese companies are genuine and comply with due procedure, the perception is that many don’t; as indeed was discovered with this particular tile company.
“Rumour has it the company has military involvement, (although) that’s yet to be proved but it’s no passport to non-compliance.
“Government shouldn’t be used to rubberstamp what’s not procedural,” he said.
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