Goromonzi villagers demand right to mine lithium, say they will not allow Chinese companies to use them as cheap labour in ‘looting’ country’s wealth 

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By Leopold Munhende, Chief Correspondent

VILLAGERS in Goromonzi are up in arms with government over its decision to bar them from artisanal lithium mining while dishing out concessions to Chinese companies, which they have accused of employing their services as sources of cheap labour.

Reports indicate more rich lithium deposits have been identified in the Goromonzi area where villagers had also been involved in gold panning over decades.

The blanket ban on their activities has, however, raised fears of a repeat of what happened in the Chiadzwa and Marange areas where villagers were forcibly moved and left poorer, without benefiting from the diamonds their land held.

“The extractive sector in Goromonzi District presents a huge opportunity for economic growth that is currently not being realised,” reads a letter sent by Goromonzi Prospective Community Trust (GPCT) Chairperson, Tadiwanashe Gwena, to Goromonzi Rural District Council (RDC) and copied to the area’s District Administrator (DA) on Tuesday.

“The Goromonzi area is likely to have more mineral reserves far higher, especially lithium and gold. However, Goromonzi and its inhabitants remains one of the poorest communities in the country, with a significant unemployment problem and most societal members in abject poverty.

“The emphasis is to realise full value of our minerals so as to benefit the local people.”

GPCT said although their hope rested on government’s Community Share Ownership policy, they had little hope of its effectiveness as past experience had seen them fail to realise a cent from it.

Added Gwena; “Goromonzi has never witnessed such an arrangement. We do not even have the knowledge of who was incorporated (into the area’s community share trusts) as the beneficiaries of that 10%.

“We are not going to allow corrupt individuals to loot our wealth and get away with it. We have made it our sole mandate that Goromonzi will never degenerate into the Marange zone where corrupt politicians, in cohorts with Chinese firms, plundered the precious stone and left the Marange community impoverished.

“We are rational people. We will never allow ourselves to walk into a trap. History always repeats itself, now it’s high time we recreate our future and secure the best for generations to come.

“We implore the government and all mining companies in Goromonzi to allow citizens of Zimbabwe to have the right to extract lithium. We cannot allow Chinese firms to take everything whilst we are their cheap labour. We have teams ready to extract the mineral, and these were extracted from the community.”

Goromonzi rests 32 kilometres south-east of the capital, Harare and has over the past decade witnessed an influx of Chinese owned mines mainly prospecting or mining gold.