Hwange villagers want Chinese investors in the area stopped from exploring for coal, saying they were violating environmental laws.
They also argue that the investors failed to produce any documentation which suggests that they have permission to operate in the area.
Hwange villagers also claim that Chinese investors engaged the local leadership for the purposes of coercing them into accepting the foreign nationals operating as Beifer Investments.
Villagers are afraid that, should the project continue, they will be forced to relocate while others will be exposed to air and water pollution of Nyantuwe River which provides drinking water for humans and livestock.
They also fear that they will lose their livelihoods, grazing land for their livestock, and cultural heritage sites such as graveyards for the Nekatambe chieftainship as well as contamination of ritual sites.
According to the Dinde Residents Association, from February 2019 to December 2019, a team of Chinese investors toured the village without consulting or engaging locals. The Dinde Residents Association said:
In December 2019, the same team brought some lightweight machinery and set up a camp behind one Emelia Mukombwe’s homestead within the village where they intended to start drilling.
Locals approached the Chinese, who failed to produce documents authorising them to explore the area.
Locals ordered them to leave and return with documents granting them permission to work in Dinde.
Chinese investors allegedly returned to Dinde with several officers from the Environmental Management Agency, Hwange Rural District Council, traditional leaders, Zimbabwe Republic Police, Zimbabwe National Army and a local miner, to coerce the villagers.
On 8 January 2020, a delegation of local community members was dispatched to Hwange Rural District office to establish the legality of the Chinese operation.
Hwange RDC chief executive Mr Phindile Ncube told them the Chinese had a special grant for exploration.
The Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) said the local Dinde community had a right to live on their ancestral land and reserve the right to say it rejects forced evictions. Added to CNNRG:
The Chinese investor has violated the country’s environmental laws, specifically, section 97 which spells that an environmental impact assessment must be carried out before prospecting.
The fact that Dinde’s community was not aware that they fell within a special exploration grant concession is testimony that they were never engaged in.
Dinde is home to thousands of Nambyas and Tongas tribes.