By Edward Mukaro
CIVIL Society Organisations and citizens have castigated political interference hindering the smooth running of operations by State institutions, while also calling for the amendment of the Mines and Minerals Act to empower local authorities to prevent manipulation by the elite personnel in high positions in Government.
The stance by CSOs and residents in the eastern highlands comes in the wake of alleged illegal mining activities in Penhalonga, Mutare, where Redwing mine allegedly contracted Prime Royal Africa (PRA) to commence mining activities after having been officially forbidden by the Joint Operations Committee (JOC).
The area under question is said to be reserved for underground mining, which makes surface mining was forbidden.
It is the conviction of organisations operating in the Penhalonga community such as the Centre for Research and Development, Penhalonga Residents and ratepayers Trust, Penhalonga Youth Development Trust and Zivai Community Empowerment Trust, respectively, that state institutions such as the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and local authority boards have been powerless in efforts to stop surface mining activities being undertaken by PRA at a place recommended for underground mining, due to the influence of politicians who have otherwise selfish agendas to benefit at the expense of the community and environment.
It reported that due to increased fear and intimidation on regulatory authorities by political elites, it took EMA 8 months to order a shutdown of PRA illegal mining activities at Redwing.
In an interview with The BusinessConnect newspaper, CRD director James Mupfumi said there was enough evidence to suggest that government departments were evidently afraid to act on PRA’s actions on the ground, hence the need to amend the mines and minerals law of the land to empower local authorities to carry out their duties without unwarranted hindrance from unscrupulous politicians.
“There was fear in all local government departments to stop the looting, highlighting that the main contractor was related to high offices. That it took JOC intervention to stop the project as confirmed by Redwing is also evidence that powerful people are behind PRA and its unlawful activities in Penhalonga.
“In short, the government must balance business and human rights by allowing regulatory authorities to exercise their functions in a transparent manner. “Expediting the law-making process on devolution and amending the Mines and Minerals Act to empower local authorities with the autonomy to administer local governance functions is the only way to prevent manipulation of local authorities by political elites in government,” said Mupfumi.
The CR boss encouraged EMA to also carry out its mandate, as the proposed project is an environmental disaster.
Said Mupfumi, “EMA is aware that the proposed project is a potential environmental disaster and a threat to human security. The community has disapproved of the project in the EIA consultation meetings recently held at Redwing.
“EMA must carry out a transparent assessment of the EIA proposal that PRA intends to deliver to EMA. EMA must adequately consult the people of Penhalonga on the project and also ensure that the proposed EIA document is made available to the public.”
The outburst from the civic society community and residents comes hard on the heels of a proposed surface mining and milling project at Redwing Mine concession in Penhalonga, Mutare.
According to a statement released by CSOs, ‘Section 97 of the Environment Management Act (EMA) oblige mining companies to undertake an EIA and play for an EIA Certificate to the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) before the commencement of mining activities. Redwing Mining Company (RMC) only has a valid Environment Management Plan (EMP) for underground mining’.
The presser further states that “…For the past 10 months, PRA open pits mining activities at Redwing have extensively damaged the environment and increased the vulnerability of the community to landslides, flooding, and hazardous contamination of water among other environmental concerns.”