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Seke villagers fight granite mining company



WHEN mining company Matscandnavia Investments (Private) Limited, a subsidiary of Seven Stars Mining, came to Mashonaland East’s Seke district in September last year, its intention was to prospect for granite in the area.


Through its employers and agents, the company descended into Savanhu, Mhonda, Mhundwa and Charigwati villages in Seke’s Mayambara area and proceeded to peg out the entirety of the four villages.

But local villagers are pushing back.

Blessing Munemo, a councillor from Savanhu Village, has dragged the company to court, seeking to bar Matscandnavia Investments from carrying out any prospecting, exploration and mining activities in the Mayambara area without following the due process of law.

Munemo is represented by attorneys from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Tinashe Chinopfukutwa and Kelvin Kabaya.

Munemo says he was neither consulted about the proposed quarry mining activities, nor did he consent to such projects.

“The pegs installed by the 1st Respondent (Matscandnavia) cover the entirety of the four villages. I was never consulted on the proposed quarry mining activities and I never consented to the same,” he said in his founding affidavit.

“I was born in Savanhu Village in 1984 and I have resided there at our homestead ever since then. I must also mention in passing that our homestead in Savanhu Village, Mayambara, Seke, is our ancestral home, the area having been first occupied by my grandparents in 1972,” Munemo said.

The application also cites the Environmental Management Authority (Ema) and the ministry of Mines and Mining Development as respondents.

On 11 March, Munemo, with the help of the ZLHR, wrote a letter to Matscandnavia Investments demanding that it stop its quarry mining activities and remove its pegs because it had not complied with provisions of the law as it did not have an environmental impact assessment (EIA) certificate.

EIA is a tool used to assess the significant effects of a proposed project on the environment.
However, Munemo says the company instead wrote to the chief executive officer of Manyame Rural District Council alleging that he was disrupting the quarry mining project in Mayambara.

“Unwittingly, that same letter of 20 March 2024 also confirms two things. Firstly, that the Matscandnavia has not yet obtained the Environmental Impact Assessment Certificate in relation to its project in Mayambara Village, Seke, and secondly, that the company is carrying out quarry mining activities in Mayambara Village, Seke, and has already pegged the area,” he said in the affidavit.

“This has therefore prompted me to make the application on the following grounds: I am advised by our legal counsel that to succeed in an application of this nature, I must demonstrate and prove the following: (a) The existence of a clear right; (b) There is a reasonable apprehension of irreparable harm; (c) The balance of convenience favours the granting of the application; (d) Absence of protection by any other similar remedy,” reads the affidavit.

Munemo said that the communities are on the verge of losing their grazing land should the company be allowed to continue operating without an environmental impact assessment.

“Furthermore, I submit that my apprehension of irreparable harm is reasonable under the circumstances. Firstly, villagers and I are going to effectively lose our grazing pastures, cultivating land and sacred traditional and cultural shrines to the company’s operations,” he said.

“Moreover, if the first respondent continues with its intended mining activities without any environmental impact assessment having been done and approved by the [Mines ministry] 2nd Respondent, it would effectively mean that I and my fellow villagers would be staying in the midst of a mining location and we would be exposed to unmitigated and unassessed environmental hazards.”

“Such a situation exposes us to an unhealthy and unsafe environment as we do not know the environmental impact of the company’s mining activities and measures to mitigate such effects.”

Munemo also said the community is set to suffer irreparable harm if the interdict is not granted and the company continues with its intended mining operations.

“I submit that there is no alternative remedy to confer us with protection from the company’s shenanigans. We instructed our lawyers to write to the Matscandnavia, their letter dated March 20, which followed our letter of demand clearly shows that they will not be deterred unless stopped by this Honourable Court,” he said.

“It is therefore clear that the company is not going to stop at anything unless it is stopped by an order of this Honourable Court.”

Granite has been a major export for Zimbabwe, with the country mining close to 230 000 metric tonnes of granite and exported crude or roughly trimmed granite worth US$25.8 million in 2021.

Granite mining’s contribution to overall mining output has been growing steadily, having increased from 177 tonnes in 2017, 182 tonnes in 2018 to 184 tonnes in 2019.

Several local and international companies have been plundering black granite from Mt Darwin, Murewa and Mutoko, making millions of United States dollars in the process while local villagers are wallowing in the depths of poverty and despair.

In 2022, the government through Statutory Instrument 127 imposed a ban on raw granite exports, except with the authorisation of the minister, following an outcry over irresponsible mining by major entities.

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