By Alois Vinga
MINES and Mining Development Minister, Winston Chitando, was taken over hot coals in parliament recently after being quizzed on why he is extending mining rights to graveyards and cemeteries in rural communities.
The backlash comes after numerous reports about citizens being forced to vacate their traditional land to pave way for mining activities despite not enjoying the benefits of the resources.
When diamonds were discovered in Manicaland, Chiadzwa inhabitants were relocated to Arda Transau where they later complained that living conditions had sharply deteriorated after being stripped of their agro-based livelihood.
Irked by the continued unfolding of such cases across the country, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) Harare East legislator, Tendai Biti took Chitando to task.
“My question is directed to Hon. Winston Chitando. Since when is it government policy that mining concessions are now being given in communal lands, irrespective of the rights of traditional and community leaders,” he said.
“Some of the concessions and mining rights are actually being given over graveyards, cemeteries and people’s fields in communal lands?
“When did it become government policy that the Mines and Minerals Acts will override the Communal Lands Act and the power of traditional chiefs and communities in rural areas?”
Efforts by Chitando to circumvent the question after demanding to know exactly where such rights have been granted hit a snag as Biti stood by his question, giving examples of areas where the Chinese have been granted such rights.
“There are cases that are common cause and I give him the examples of mining concessions for black granite that have been given to Chinese companies in the Mutoko area. I give examples of mining concessions that have been given to Chinese companies in the Hwange National Park, Dinde area over cemeteries.
“I give examples again of the Hlengwe-Hlangani land in Chiredzi, where again mining concessions have been given to some white interests. There are many examples. My question has not been answered – why is he allowing the Mines and Minerals Act to override the Communal Lands Act?” Biti insisted.
However in response, Chitando still professed ignorance over such incidents, instead admitting that there are only one or two sporadic cases being addressed by the Mines Ministry.
“Firstly, starting with Chiredzi, I am not aware of any cases where mining titles have been issued not following the procedures of the Mines and Minerals Act. The other cases in the Hwange area, definitely being cases of mining title issued not in accordance with the Mines and Minerals Act, there are no cases which I am aware of.
“We have one or two cases in Mutoko which are being reviewed by the Ministry which pertains to some issuance of mining titles closer to schools and that is being reviewed. Certainly, I am not aware of any other cases in Hwange and Chiredzi.
“If there are any other specific cases, he is free to bring the cases to the office and that will be reviewed accordingly,” added Chitando.