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On the ground: Displaced villagers livelihoods have deteriorated



PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba has attempted to rubbish The NewsHawks’ investigation into the plight of villagers from Tagarira and Mukwasi villages in Murambinda who were moved to pave way for lithium mining at Sabi Star Mine, owned by Max Mind Investments a subsidiary of Chinese giant Chengxin Lithium Group Company Ltd.

 Forty families were moved to pave way for mining, with 22 of them being resettled in Murambinda Town, 17 within the communal area while one family chose to be relocated in Mberengwa as reported by The NewsHawks.

Our news editor Owen Gagare visited Murambinda town and Mukwasi Village in Buhera in January alongside Thandiwe Garusa, a member of the Zimbabwe Investigative Journalism Network (ZIJN) to investigate the condition under which the villagers were living following their relocation.

They wrote six stories from the visit and produced a short documentary where relocated persons recounted how the relocation had affected their lives.

The NewsHawks as part of its mandate to give a voice to the voiceless while playing a watchdog role, sought to speak to the community members who were affected by the mining operations through relocations.

All the people we spoke to said they were coerced into signing compensation agreements by government officials and Chief Nyashanu.

Those at Murambinda Town complained that their sources of livelihood where disrupted rendering them food insecure.

They complained that they were given sub-standard houses which were developing cracks and said the company failed to fulfill some promises.

Villagers who were relocated within Mukwasi village also said their lives are also worse off. Charamba, who is also from Buhera, began by claiming that Murambinda is not a town.

 Despite being a senior government official, it seems he is not aware that Local Government minister July Moyo conferred town status to Murambinda in April 2022.

Murambinda now has a town board. Indeed, the houses which Max Mind built for the relocated families are visible from the Chivhu-Dorowa-Nyazura highway. We were there.

We saw them. They do indeed look very good, but some of them have developed cracks. Our reporters saw it with their own eyes and took pictures and videos.

We reported on the compensation which the villagers received after signing compensation agreements.

But the villagers said they signed the agreements under duress, which was disputed by the Buhera District Development coordinator Freeman Mavhisa and company spokesperson spokesperson Emmerson Njanjamangezi, who insisted they voluntarily chose where to settled and that a multi-stakeholder committee oversaw the relocations.

Charamba claimed that the majority were not resettled in Murambinda, but the figures we received from the villagers, Max Mind, and Local Government ministry indicate that 22 of the families were relocated in the town.

 We are aware of the community projects carried out by Max Minds, including painting schools, drilling boreholes at schools and constructing health centres.

We mention them in our story and perhaps, some people in Buhera are happy about these developments.

We however spoke to resettled families and they insist their lifestyles have deteriorated after the relocation.

 Most of the affected families say none of their members was employed by the company, contrary to what Charamba says. — STAFF WRITER.