CHIVHU – There is panic in Chikomba District in Mash East as over 800 villagers from Manhize face eviction to pave way for a Chinese iron ore mine and a carbon steel plant.
The Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development Polite Kambamura revealed this during an inter-ministerial tour of the anticipated that the US$1 billion project by Tsinghan Holdings of China will be opened before the end of this year.
He said Government is carrying out feasibility studies on where to place the affected families. Mines Minister Winston Chitando later told The Mirror in a telephone interview the Presiinterview that President Emerson Mnangagwa will attend a ground breaking ceremony for the mine at the end of July this year.
Tsinghan signed a US$1 billion outline agreement with Zimbabwe in June 2018 to construct the oven in Manhize but the process failed to kick off early due to a number of factors chief among them being that the area is populated.
Tsingshan accounts for 15% of the world’s stainless steel output, and has been increasing production at its 3 million tonnes per year Indonesia unit.
Villagers who spoke to The Mirror are dejected with the project even with assurances that 4 500 jobs will be created. They said that the prospects that they will be evicted without compensation are high.
They accused their chiefs of receiving bribes from the Chinese investors so that they don’t raise any issues in defense of their subjects.
“The project will be commissioned in July, its only one month to go and we still do not know where we are going to be relocated to. The chiefs are not saying anything because they have been bribed,” said a villager who declined to be named.
Another villager said that the Zanu PF Government has a record of evicting people without compensation and she cited villagers evicted from Tokwe-Mukosi Dam area more than eight years ago who have neither received compensation nor are properly resettled. He also cited those affected by Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani in 2019 who still live in tents despite promises of assistance from Government.
“The Chinese are not good investors wherever they go in the world. They loot resources and leave the host country and people with nothing to show for their exploited resources.
“We hear that they now want us off our land so that they can exploit our minerals. We are going to get nothing for the degradation of our land and if at all we are going to be left poorer because our homes will be destroyed without any compensation.
“We have no one to turn to with our plight because the top chefs in Government are part of the Chinese and our traditional chiefs are mum because they have been bribed. They are not saying anything,” said another villager.
Speaking during the inter-ministerial tour, the subsidiary managing director Benson Xu said his company will employ about 4 500 people at the DISCO Smelting and Mining plant.
“We pursued the steel plant long back in 2013 and 2014 because we had great vision for Zimbabwe. From 2013 to 2017 there was no ‘open for business’ policy and we couldn’t do much,” said Xu.
“Tsingshan chairman is coming to Zimbabwe at the end of July and His Excellency President Mnangagwa will be coming to Manhize for the ground-breaking ceremony,” said Chitando.
Acting Chief Chirumhanzu, Fidelis Mudzengi who hails from the Midlands Province where the iron ore belt stretches to called upon the Chinese investors to consider employ local youths.
“We were told about the evictions to pave way for mining activities and the final say is with the Government. We call upon the investor to give first preference to our youths for employment,” he said.
Tsingshan has a few hurdles to go through including poor Zimbabwe infrastructure including roads, rail and power. The company plans to build a 600MW power plant to fire up the project.
This is not the first time that Chinese companies have been involved in major projects in Zimbabwe. The East Asian country’s companies have been involved in diamond mining in Marange, chrome, gold and other mineral in Mashonaland and Midlands but there is no development that they left in those areas.
If at all the communities were left poorer.