Connect with us

Support The NewsHawks


‘I refused to be bullied, no regrets’



EVIAS Mukwasi (pictured) refused to vacate his property when Max Mind Investments relocated villagers from their ancestral land to commence its mining operations — and he has no regrets.


His father is the head of Mukwasi Village, which is situated in Buhera district, Manicaland province.

Despite living in a harsh environment in which he is forced to inhale dust and contend with flying rocks from the blasting operations at Sabi Star Mine, Elias says the hardships he is facing are nothing compared to the suffering that his colleagues who were relocated to Murambinda are enduring.

Speaking to The NewsHawks from his home, he said he made the decision not to move after realising that the company was dishonest and noting that the traditional leaders and government officials who were supposed to look out for their interests were compromised. “I refused to be intimidated and bullied,” he said.

 “I didn’t even attend the last meeting where compensation agreements were signed. We were being stampeded into agreeing to move. They were thriving on fear and intimidation tactics because they drilled home the fact that the investment had government’s blessing. I told them that the only way I would move was if they brought a Caterpillar (heavy machinery) to forcibly relocate me.

“With the benefit of hindsight, I am happy that I made the right decision.”

 Mukwasi’s home is situated nearest to the mine, just 300 metres away from the mine en[1]trance. “When they start blasting, some rocks fly and land in my yard and beyond. I move out of my home every time they start blasting,” he said.

“I am also literally eating dust day and night. When their trucks move, dust rises and we are forced to inhale it. There is also a smell that is always lingering in the air. I am not sure what chemical they are using. The whole community is concerned by the dust.

“It’s evidently a tough life, but I am better off than my colleagues in Murambinda.”

Mukwasi said he used to have a viable bee[1]keeping project on the go, but it collapsed when mining operations commenced.

He would periodically harvest honey from his beehives in the forests and mountains of the village before selling the honey to community members and other buyers. The beehives have all been vacated.

 He attributes this to the dust and stench emanating from the mine, which would have driven away the bees. Mukwasi said there were no benefits at all to relocation, especially for the villagers who were placed in Murambinda.

“Look, I am comfortable here. They were offering a five-room house, but I already have a good home here. The houses they built are not better than mine. Mine is strong and I hear that the houses in Murambinda have already developed cracks,” he said.

“Besides that, I have a borehole and I am irrigating my crops. I don’t buy food and I always have more than enough. If you look at my field there, I have maize on one hectare; I also have tomatoes and beans which I irrigate. I grow my own vegetables. I have cows, goats and chickens, so I am covered when I want milk or meat. If I were to relocate to Murambinda, I couldn’t take them with me.

“I have solar energy here and I am able to charge all my electrical gadgets. So, there is absolutely nothing for me to gain if I am relocated. After all, the money they are offering is little, especially when one considers that the costs I will bear are for a lifetime.”

The 40 families who were relocated received US$1 900 as compensation.

Mukwasi was unimpressed with this paltry sum from the start. He was also unhappy that the company had reduced the amount of compensation originally pledged for the reburials and that it had removed these graves to make way for the mining operations.

“Initially, they promised to pay US$2 000 for every grave of an adult being dug up, and US$1 500 for every grave of a child, but they later said they would pay US$1 500 for an adult and US$1 000 for a child. The process was not done well, especially as the company asked relatives and community members to handle the reburials. There were no burial orders. After various complaints, the government moved in and said the process should be done professionally. Nyaradzo Funeral Services then took over,” he said.

“The fact that they changed the goal posts on payments was a warning sign that I should not trust them.

“They promised boreholes for evicted families, but here in Mukwasi Village they only drilled one. The company did not compensate the people who had to move for their kraals, fowl runs and boreholes. They built a standard house and compensated them with fruit trees. However, there was no compensation for the remaining vital infrastructure that exists in a village setting.”

 Elias added that he was emboldened not to move because he also had a gold-mining licence.

“I argued that I have the same rights as them. I saw it as bullying and I refused to back down.”