Reprieve for Mutoko Communities
27 July 2023
Spread the love

By A Correspondent- A Zimbabwean court has stopped Labenmon Investments, a Chinese mining company, from conducting illegal mining operations on ancestral land belonging to some Mutoko villagers in Mashonaland East province, following an outcry by the dwellers.

The villagers led by George Makanjera and Judgmore Chibanda filed an urgent chamber application on 30 June 2023 at Mutoko Magistrates Court, seeking an order to interdict the Chinese mining company from prospecting, conducting exploration or any form of mining activity in four villages in Mutoko namely Moyosvi, Chibanda, Gumbeze and Kadore.

The villagers, who were represented by Tinashe Chinopfukutwa and Kelvin Kabaya of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, also asked the court to order Labenmon Investments to remove some pegs which it had installed in the four villages within 24 hours.

Apart from Labenmon Investments, the villagers also listed Mines and Mining Development Minister Hon. Winston Chitando, Environmental Management Agency and Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency as respondents.

The villagers resorted to taking legal action against Labenmon Investments after the Chinese mining company installed some pegs on about 150 hectares of land covering grazing pastures, cultivation and places of traditional and cultural significance in the four villages.

At one time, the mining company was fined a beast of cattle by a local traditional leader for visiting and pegging the sacred areas without notifying him or obtaining his approval.

Despite not holding the required paperwork, Labenmon Investments proceeded to bulldoze its way into the area to begin operations that were threatening the livelihoods of dozens of families.

Chinopfukutwa and Kabaya protested in court that some Labenmon Investments employees had in May 2023 camped on the villagers’ land and had told them that they wanted to drill boreholes and inspect their pegs as they had invested in purchasing the mining claims to mine in the villages.

However, the villagers challenged them to produce documentation to prove their claims and this exposed the illegalities behind the mining scheme as the company’s representatives produced a copy of a certificate of registration after transfer of mining claims in respect of claims named Mudzonga located some 3.5 kilometres east of Bandamakara School, a Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA) licence issued on 27 February 2023 and a map for the mining project in Mudzonga.

They also produced correspondence from the Environmental Management Agency dated 13 May 2023, in which the company was advised to carry out a full Environmental Impact Assessment.

Mutoko Senior Magistrate Terrence Mashaire brought relief to the Mutoko villagers after ordering Labenmon Investments not to prospect, conduct exploration or any form of mining activity in the entirety of Moyosvi, Chibanda, Gumbeze and Kadore villages without following due process and the law.

Magistrate Mashaire ordered Labenmon Investments to remove its pegs installed around Moyosvi, Chibanda, Gumbeze and Kadore villages within 24 hours and also ruled that in the event that the Chinese mining company does not comply with his order of removing pegs in the villagers’ land, the Messenger of Court would be authorised to remove the pegs from their fields.

Magistrate Mashaire noted that the villagers took action upon realising that their environment was being threatened and said they have a constitutional right to enjoy use of their property and defend it against invasion as Labenmon Investments’ presence on their land is inconsistent with the law.

The Magistrate ruled that the Chinese mining company had not been certified or authorised to carry out mining operations in the four villages and said for Labenmon Investments to want to carry out mining activities without obtaining the relevant approvals and without consulting the villagers would be a violation of Zimbabwean laws governing the protection of the environment together with people residing in the four villages.