Some villagers under the Nyamweda clan want Home Affairs minister Cain Mathema to stop companies from mining granite in the Nharira Hills heritage site, saying these were desecrating graves at a protected site.
BY Everson Mushava
The villagers also said a company manufacturing ceramic tiles has been operating on the site and they fear being evicted from their ancestral land.
In a letter dated October 2, the villagers, being represented by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said they were now being denied access to the site.
“These companies appear to be interested in the site for quarry mining granite for cement, and there is also apparently a certain ceramic tile company operating on the site,” said the lawyers.
They alleged that human remains were now being excavated and re-buried in shallow graves at one of the hills at Kilworth Farm.
Nharira Hills are located near Norton, about 20 kilometres west of Harare, and comprise of five hillocks that are interconnected by underground tunnels, spreading over Somerby, Kilworth, Saffron Walden and Stonehurst farms.
The hills are a sacred site for the Nyamweda clan and were declared a National Monument in 2000 in terms of section 20(1) of the National Museums and Monuments Act. Until recently, the clan had free access to the hills to practice traditional rituals such as rain-making ceremonies.
“We submit that the current activities taking place at Nharira Hills are in contravention of the Environmental Management Act, the National Museums Act, the Administrative Justice Act, as well as the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of indigenous People,” the lawyers wrote.
The lawyers said the Nyamweda clan was not consulted when the companies moved in and also with regard to their pending eviction.
“They have nowhere else to go and their eviction will result in them being forced to live in inhuman conditions contrary to their rights to dignity and humane treatment, thereby violating sections 51 and 53 of the Constitution,” reads the petition
The villagers are demanding an urgent stop to the excavation, mining and desecration of the Nharira Hills given its status as a traditional heritage. They also want an urgent meeting with the National Museum and Monuments officials and that they should continue to enjoy unrestricted access to the site.