Rights lawyers have stepped in to challenge the looming seizure of land from several villagers in Kaseke Village, Uzumba in Mashonaland East province by Heijin Mining Company.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)’s Tinashe Chinopfukutwa early this month confronted Mashonaland East Mining Commissioner and the Environmental Management Agency seeking information on the status of the controversial deal with the miner.
The human rights lawyer argued in his correspondence to authorities that, according to the law, no prospecting licence holder can proceed to peg land in a communal area without the consent of the occupier.
According to a statement by ZLHR, Chinopfukutwa further argued that “in terms of Section 31(1)(h) of the Mines and Minerals Act, no holder of a prospecting licence can proceed to peg communal land occupied as a village without the written consent of the Rural District Council of the area concerned”.
The lawyer has asked if any Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted in relation to the mining project and if so to be furnished with a copy of the certificate approving the prospecting and pegging of Kaseke Village by Heijin Mining Company.
If the land is seized, villagers stand to lose their homesteads, farming fields and grazing land.
The looming tug-of-war for land is not the first in the country as government has been extending farming or prospecting rights to several foreign firms or politically connected individuals often without both the knowledge and consent of villagers who inherited the land from their ancestors.
Government came under fire earlier this year over plans to evict 12 000 members of the Shangani indigenous minority from their ancestral land to make way for animal feed production by a firm linked to the ruling elite.
Similarly, then First Lady Grace Mugabe caused uproar in 2017 when she instigated the eviction of several villagers at a farm in Mazowe to expand her business empire.