The state has today, Friday 30 July 2021, withdrawn its case against the leader of Dinde Residents Association, Never Tshuma.
The reasons for withdrawal were not given.
Never Tshuma was arrested on April 15, 2021 for allegations of inciting public violence after Katambe community members stormed Beifa Investments exploration site in defence of their land rights. Never Tshuma was facing two counts of contravening Section 187 as read with Section 36 (1) of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act Chapter 09:23.
As part of the bail conditions, Never Tshuma was banned by the court from setting foot in his rural home until the matter has been resolved. As the Centre for Natural Resource Governance, we were convinced that not only were the charges frivolous but the bail conditions were unjust.
Banishing Never Tshuma from his rural home served as a painful reminder of the repressive colonial laws inherited by independent Zimbabwe which were used to contain Zimbabweans’ resistance to colonial rule. The bail condition denied Never Tshuma access to his family and also infringed on his freedom of movement, association, conscience and also his cultural rights.
Never Tshuma’s arrest was meant to break the spirit of the Dinde Community and distract it from the real fight of asserting their rights; and demanding transparency and accountability on the Beifa Investment coal project.
The withdrawal of the case gives the community an impetus to channel its energy to fight for their constitutionally guaranteed rights, especially Section 13 which calls for their involvement “in the formulation and implementation of development plans and programmes that affect them.”
The community of Dinde has been fighting to stop exploration for coal by Beifa Investments, citing breach of constitutionally guaranteed rights and cultural protocols. The community contends that should the project continue, they will be subjected to forced relocations while others will be exposed to air and water pollution as the Nyantuwe River, which provides drinking water for humans and livestock, will not be spared.
They also fear the loss of livelihoods and grazing land for their livestock, destruction of cultural heritage sites such as community graveyards and ancient graves of the Nekatambe Chieftainship as well as contamination of ritual sites in that area.
The community petitioned the Parliament of Zimbabwe in April 2021, to investigate the authenticity of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project. The community wanted the EIA certificate granted to Beifa Investment to be cancelled.
In its investigation report released on 22 July 2021, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality poked holes in the current Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27) and recommended its amendment to clearly spell out the scope and standards to be followed by registered Consultants on stakeholder consultations.
The committee noted that “Communities need to be informed and adequately capacitated to be fully knowledgeable about mining ventures so that they decide from an informed point of view.” The report is yet to be debated in parliament.
CNRG condemns the granting of exploration and mining rights on land that belongs to communities and the persecution of individuals and communities defending their heritage.