Compiled by Fidelis Chima
Hwange town is endowed with vast coal deposits and the first company to mine coal is Hwange Colliery Company Limited and was founded in 1899.Due to shortages of electrical power and foreign currency in the country the number of investors mainly Chinese companies are increasingly investing in coal projects to boost electrical power and foreign currency.
Some of these coal mining investments in Hwange are being resisted by affected communities as they cite lack of effective participation by locals in the Environmental Impact Assessment consultations, yet effective public participation is the key precondition for transparent and accountable governance. It helps the poorest of the poor in society including rural communities to participate in decisions that impact them.
In 2020 government was forced to ban mining activities in national parks after pressure from the local people and beyond protested against Afrochine and Zhongxin intended coal mining activities.
In 2021 Dinde Residents Association petitioned the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Climate and Tourism. The petition was signed by 20 petitioners ,mainly alleged that Geovannah Consultancy ,which was contracted by Biefer Investments to do an exploration Environmental Assessment for coal mining did not consult the affected Katambe villagers. The petitioners also alleged that the participants register in the EIA document reflected names of people who did not originate or reside in Katambe Village in Dinde.
The portfolio committee recommended that the Minister of Environment ,Climate Change ,Tourism and Hospitality Industry to amend the Environmental Management Act ,to clearly spell out the scope and standards to be followed by registered Consultants on stakeholders consultations by 31 December 2021 ,it also recommended that Environmental Management Agency needs to introduce capacity building initiatives for communities in mining areas to understand the EIA processes and provide the local leadership with the requisite information that empowers them to handle the consultation processes by 31 December 2021 and the portfolio committee concluded by saying that if the rights of communities living in mining areas are not protected and guaranteed and transparency and accountability are not upheld ,the nation will witness divisions and disagreements between and among communities because of investment in their respective areas .Communities need to be informed and adequately capacitated to be fully knowledgeable about mining ventures so that they decide from an informed point of view.
It is disappointing to note that recommendations that were made by the Portfolio committee that seeks to build a social contract between citizens ,government and business to constructively engage in a more informed ,direct and beneficial manner have not be implemented.