Hwange Central legislator Daniel Molokele has stood behind villagers in Hwange’s Dinde community have clashed with some Chinese investors conducting a coal exploration operation on their land.
The row has spilled into the courts after police arrested Zanu PF ward and residents’ leader for blocking the mining project.
Beifa Investments claims to have a special mining grant to explore for coal in Dinde, about 30km outside Hwange town and the community was not consulted on the mining project which is feared could lead to the displacement of dozens of villagers.
Mines minister Winston Chitando has on several occasions shunned meeting the community with a recent one only being attended by Matabeleland North Minister of State, Richard Moyo.
There has been a fierce contest as villagers have vowed to block the Chinese from mining in the area, with authorities saying the company is only exploring at this stage and not digging.
The defiant Beifa Investments started pitching tents in Katambe village in Chief Nekatambe area prompting an angry reaction by villagers who immediately moved in and ordered removal of the tents.
Probably to instil fear among villagers, Beifa Investments’ Joshua Munyumbu invited police who arrested Never Tshuma, the vice chairman of Zanu PF Dinde ward and holds the same portfolio for the Dinde Residents Association.
Tshuma had addressed villagers on site telling them to stand firm and resist any move into the community by the mine.
Tshuma faces two counts of inciting public violence and appeared before Hwange magistrate Aeline Munamati on Saturday.
He was granted $10 000 bail and remanded to May 17 following an application by his lawyer Joylene Change.
Scores of members of the community crowded at the magistrates’ courts and filled the gallery as they stood in solidarity with Tshuma (45).
Among them was MP Molokele who feels Tshuma was unfairly arrested.
“As the office of the MP for Hwange Central Constituency, we were at the magistrates’ courts in solidarity with Never Tshuma who is the vice chairman of Dinde Residents Association.
“He was wrongfully arrested and falsely charged for inciting public violence. With regards to the situation at our rural ward 13 in Dinde, we as the office of the MP are very clear and unequivocal in our stance.
“We are fully behind the local residents since they were not properly consulted as per the basic requirements of devolution,” said Molokele’s office in a statement.
Allegations levelled against Tshuma are that he went to the site on April 14 and addressed villagers who had gathered there, telling them to remove the tent pitched by the Chinese.
“On the 14th day of April Beifa Investments proceeded to Katambe village in Dinde under Chief Nekatambe where they were granted special grant to explore coal in the concession.
“They pitched a tent on the site before they could start the coal mining exploration. A number of people from the local community came and gathered near the tent so as to know what was transpiring claiming that they did not agree to the investment programme,” said prosecutor Jamesina Makanza.
Police reportedly warned the community against revolting as the mine had a special grant.
Sometime last year, government was forced to rescind a special grant it had offered Chinese miners in Hwange National Park, courting the ire of local and international communities.