By James Muonwa
THE MINES Ministry has urged farmers to register their productive land with the ministry to avoid having it designated for mining purposes.
Land conflicts are on the rise across the country between farmers and miners with the latter being accused of invading productive farms for mining purposes, especially for gold and chrome.
However, a senior Mines Ministry official, Nolwazi Muchinguri, said there was legislation allowing farmers to protect their productive land by registering with the ministry and avoid having their properties designated for pegging for mining.
“The farmer only has surface rights, and this means they don’t have rights over minerals underground which are vested in the President of Zimbabwe,” she said.
“The current law demands that a farmer has to register their farm with the Mines Minister (Winston Chitando) so that it is not earmarked for allocation because it is a productive farm.”
Muchinguri was speaking at the Zimbabwe Land Commission (ZLC) workshop in Chinhoyi funded by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The workshop focused on the rise in disputes in communal, resettlement, and A1 farming areas involving miners invading farms to prospect for minerals.
Muchinguri explained farmers, occupying farms found with precious minerals, were entitled to the first right of refusal to compensation for the land to pave way for mining activities.
She also reiterated farmers and miners could enter into mutually beneficial partnerships to exploit minerals on the farms.
Prominent Chinhoyi farmer, Nick Swanapoel, complained of rampaging illegal gold panners at his farm, arguing the registration process with the Mines Ministry was laborious.
He proposed harmonisation of laws governing both mining and farming sectors in order to ensure economic prosperity.
The workshop participants concurred the government should promote mineral exploitation, but not allow it without the land holder’s prior informed consent.
Austin Ndoro, a village development committee chairperson in Mhondoro-Ngezi, lamented the high incidences of violent cases where illegal miners descended on farms and disrupt agricultural activities causing massive environmental damage in the process.
“In Mhondoro-Ngezi, we actually have a state of disaster. Illegal miners armed with prospectors’ licenses for gold and chrome invade farms and begin mining without informing or prior consent of the landholder,” he said.
“There are many times such situations have turned violent because both parties would be having a claim and offer letters over the disputed land. This new policy should outline clearly what should be done if minerals are discovered on our farms.”
George Murongweni concurred stating miners were disregarding farmers’ constitutional rights to livelihoods and enterprise. He said the government must also urgently revise the Mines and Minerals Act to ensure miner’s rights do not infringe on the land holder’s inalienable rights.
ZLC chairperson, Tendai Ruth Bare said the commission was seized with resolving over 1 000 farm allocation disputes, boundary rows, and farmer/miner conflicts.
The ZLC is a statutory body established under Section 296 of the Constitution and is mandated to regularise the settlement of beneficiaries on farms repossessed during agrarian reform, which started in 2000.
ZLC has an oversight role on the administration of agricultural land vested in the state and to regularise the fast-track land reform programme which resettled plus or minus 300 000 farmers.