ANDREW MAMBONDIYANI | EPOCH TIMES
MUTARE, Zimbabwe—Zimbabwe’s rural communities are beginning to stand up to Chinese companies operating in the country, as evidenced by the recent demonstrations against plans for a mining project in the Domboshava area, north of the capital Harare.
Villagers in Domboshava have been sending petitions to the government and holding protests against the quarry mine proposed by China Aihua Jianye, saying it would negatively affect more than 20,000 people, as well as clinics, schools, heritage sites, and graveyards in the area.
Mining activities by Chinese companies in various parts of the country have had serious impacts on the local environment, but the people affected have largely suffered in silence. The residents of Domboshava are the first to hold demonstrations in the hopes of stopping a Chinese mining project.
At their most recent demonstration on May 6, some held signs saying “Leave our Domboshava alone. Go back to your Beijing.”
China Aihua Jianye maintains the $5 million mining project would generate 500 jobs, but locals are skeptical. They also say the fallout from the project would damage tourism to the region.
Luke Tamborinyoka, a resident of Domboshava and a senior member of the opposition political party Movement for Democratic Change, told The Epoch Times that investment in the area by the Chinese company will not benefit the local people—similar to the situation in many parts of the country.
“We have seen in other areas that investment by the Chinese does not benefit people in areas they are operating in. The Chinese investors bring their own labor and they bring their own equipment,” he said.
News emerged in April that China Aihua Jianye had sought to evict about 20,000 people in Domboshava after it was granted mining rights.
“If mining were supposed to benefit the country, why would over 20,000 people be displaced to pave way for foreign investors who will take the minerals and the profits outside the country?” said Tapuwa O’bren Nhachi, a research coordinator with the Centre for Natural Resource Governance.
Nhachi said his organization, an investigative NGO that stands up for communities that are being impacted by destructive mining operations, wants to know how the Chinese got access to mine at Zimbiru Mountain in the Domboshava area.
“Who gave them the licence to mine and in exchange for what?” he said.
Nhachi said the Domboshava issue is similar to the Marange debacle in Manicaland where people were forced to relocate and make way for Chinese company Anjin Investment and other companies to conduct diamond mining operations. But in 2016, former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe forced them out due to accusations of rampant looting of diamonds.
Now, however, Anjin Investments is returning to the Marange area, and villagers are planning to hold demonstrations against the company, following the example of those in Domboshava.
“Our constitution is clear on fundamental rights that the citizens have, and these include environmental and cultural rights. Taking this into account, the community has the right to say ‘no’ to destructive and unsustainable development and that right should be respected by those who are in authority,” Nhachi said
Last year, Zimbabwean legislator Prosper Mutseyami told The Epoch Times that Chinese companies enjoy protection from the government, as China is currently the biggest investor in the country.
Mutseyami, a chief whip for Movement for Democratic Change, alleged that Zimbabwe is afraid to upset China, which is among the few countries that currently support the Zimbabwean government.
Cultural Shrines Violated
The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), an NGO that promotes the rights of marginalized and vulnerable communities in natural resource-rich areas, has been working with affected communities in Shurugwi, Zvishavane, Marange, Mutoko, and Gwanda, among others.
A report by ZELA released in March reveals that the organization has trained and equipped community monitors and paralegals to regularly document violations and complaints on environmental, economic, social, and cultural rights (EESCRs) in Zimbabwe.
“Some of the companies that are foremost in violation of EESCRs are Chinese mining companies,” the report says.
In some parts of Zimbabwe, ZELA said, Chinese companies have violated local cultural shrines.