By A Correspondent- Mutoko villagers are being evicted and relocated by granite rocks mining companies while some villagers are living in homes damaged by blasts and are unable to farm polluted land.
Every day more than 60 trucks take granite for export, along the rough road through Nyamakope village in the district of Mutoko. Quarrying has been happening there since the 1980s.
The shiny Mutoko stone is a popular material for tombstones. An extension to the Danish royal library in Copenhagen, known as the Black Diamond, is clad in Mutoko granite.
Now 50 families in the village have been told by a Chinese mining company that they will have to leave their homes and land. People in four other villages in the district fear they will also lose their ancestral lands.
Two families, including an 82-year-old villager and his wife, have already been relocated by Jinding mining company, which wants to build a polishing plant. One villager told the Guardian:
The 82-year-old man collapsed when he heard the news because he never anticipated it. He was later resuscitated at the hospital. This is how bad things are here.
The man was told his house was within the area licensed to the mining company by the government. Zimbabwe’s Communal Areas Act gives the president power to decide the use of an area that makes up 40% of the country’s land, home to about 70% of the population.
Two other families were given $2 500 (£1 840) to rebuild their homes, but community leaders say this is insufficient.
One villager said:
There is uncertainty around this village. Right now, we do not have anyone willing to help us because our councillor does not want to help us. Anyone who dares to speak out is threatened. Whether they remove us or not, we are already scared to speak out.
The 40-year-old father of four fears losing five hectares of land, his only source of income. He said villagers should have the right to reject the investors from entering our community.
Richard Ncube, a legal officer at Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), says people in Mutoko were “extremely worried” about evictions.
The major challenge is they are living in the dark, and they are not sure what is going to happen.
We have gathered that most of the communities [in Mutoko] are afraid to come forward and take these matters to court due to intimidation and fear of being victimised.
Attempts to challenge the mining companies elsewhere in Zimbabwe have had mixed results. Last week, the High Court dismissed a court application by villagers from Chilonga, Chiredzi in Zvishavane who were challenging their impending eviction and Zimbabwe’s Communal Areas Act.-Guardian