THE unregulated lithium plunder in Mberengwa along the Mwezha mountain range and in Sandawana area by a plethora of syndicates with connections to the government and Zanu PF is posing a health time bomb for villagers and pupils at a local primary school.
The mining syndicates are led by Zanu PF Mberengwa candidate Tinashe “Goga” Shumba and some foreign nationals.
However, Shumba has consistently denied being involved in the plunder and in a previous interview with The NewsHawks he enphasised he is not into mining.
Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya has also been implicated as part of the ring leaders of mining syndicates in the area after she was spotted there, but repeated efforts by this publication to get her side of the story have not yielded success.
Kuvimba Mining House is also conducting some lithium mining in the area.
Mberengwa District Natural Endowments Foundation secretary Takavafira Zhou, who is also the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president, on Thursday told The NewsHawks that the health risks and general disturbances are now mostly concentrated at Sandawana Primary School.
“The roaring noise from trucks, dynamite blasting and the accompanying dust have created unbearable dust and noise pollution unpalatable to learning and teaching,” he said.
“There is too much dust hanging in the horizon of Sandawana School. Dust is virtually raining in classrooms at Sandawana and at the end of the day pupils and teachers are virtually soaked in dust all over their bodies and clothes.
“As if this is not enough the quantum growth of population and use of school toilets has created a health hazard in the school. The schools’ proximity to the mine working area has, therefore, become the greatest liability, more so because toilets of the former emerald-mining area are now dysfunction except at the school.”
There are now fears of imminent outbreaks of diseases like cholera due to unmanaged human waste and tuberculosis from the heavy dust pollution in the area.
A recent visit by The NewsHawks revealed that lithium ore is heaped 30 metres from the classrooms for crashing into concentrates. Mountains of lithium rocks are also heaped inside the school premises.
“With more than 6 000 people living in the vicinity of the school and using bush toilets, the school is also littered with used papers, tissues and feaces every time the wind blows in the direction of the school. There is excess dust and smoke filtering into classrooms,” Zhou said.
“The school administration cannot stop these mine workers from use of school toilets as mine cartels and management have virtually taken them as prisoners with no voices to be listened to. Even the parents have no say, having witnessed the thuggery of part of Kuvimba Mine authorities, particularly the notoriety of Nigel,” he said.
The NewsHawks gathered that Sandawana Primary School’s pleas to the district education officials have fallen on deaf ears.
“The school is sitting on a time bomb. Toilets are overwhelmed because formal mine workers use them always,” Zhou confirmed.
“Responsible mining calls for sustainable development in which proceeds from the mining ventures are ploughed into local development rather than outright looting, wrecking, siphoning and plundering natural resources of Mberengwa.
“There is currently under-development, poverty, misery and penury in Mberengwa despite the mineral wealth in the area.”
Zhou said the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education needs to take a bold and urgent decision in the best interest of learners and teachers.
“The miners must be forced to alternatively build a new state-of-the-art Sandawana Boarding Primary School at a new location suitable for learning and teaching as part of corporate social responsibility,” he said.
Early this year there was public outrage after more than 10 000 Mberengwa villagers who were digging and blasting for lithium around Sandawana Mine were violently displaced by police and forced to leave behind thousands of tonnes of the ore they had piled up.
In a video that went viral on social media, one of the villagers who had been displaced was recorded as saying one of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s relatives, Bernard Mnangagwa, had instructed police to evict the villagers.
In the audio recording that circulated on YouTube, the villager is heard as claiming: “What is happening here is very painful. Mnangagwa’s son came here in the morning and we have all been displaced. These are people who vote for Zanu PF who have been displaced. Are you hearing that teargas which is discharging? Mnangagwa’s son came here in the morning (to displace villagers) . . . so what it means is that the whole country will be finished by children of one person,” he said.
“Why is it that each time there is a mineral rush, children of one person come to take over? We never saw children of President Mugabe doing that. How will Zanu PF campaign in this area after what has happened?”