“Bribed” civil society groups, accused of betraying residents
BY CLAYTON MASEKESA
MUTARE – Two Mutare based civil society groups are in the eye of a storm after allegedly aiding a controversial Chinese quarry mining deal on Dangamvura Mountain.
United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust (UMRRT) and Manicaland Youth Assembly (MAYA) have been accused of paying their allegiance to the contentious quarry mining deal that will see Mutare City Council leasing its 6.5 hectare stand number 13415 Mutare township situated on Dangamvura Mountain to Freestone Mines – a Chinese owned Company.
The 10-year lease agreement that has been hotly disputed by the residents will see Freestone Mines paying a modest US$7 557 as annual fee to council in order to conduct its quarry stone mining operations.
UMRRT, through its Acting Director – Edison Dube – has been facilitating consultative meetings between the residents and Freestone Mines Company discussing the mining issue.
Insiders describe the outcome of the meetings as “stage managed” and “well rehearsed,” amid accusations of youths being given monetary allowances, purportedly to cover lunch and transport, to sway them to support the divisive mining deal.
“On Tuesday, UMRRT, led by Dube facilitated the meeting to aid the consultations process that saw what appeared to be hired youths, who were in Zanu PF regalia, dancing to the tune of their paymasters during the consultations,” said an insider.
“The meetings of shame by both UMRRT and MAYA appeared to be an endorsement to the mining project that has left Mutare residents and stakeholders dumbfounded.”
“While these two civic groups pretended as if they were genuinely representing the concerns of the residents, they were actually in agreement with the Chinese investors,” added.
Enraged residents who have been fighting against the deal have asserted that money could have exchanged hands to magnetize the civic society group to change goal posts and support the project.
During the meeting in Mutare on Tuesday at Queens Hall, Njabulo Chipangura, who claimed to be a manager from Freestone Mines, said Freestone Mines was intending to mine quarry and not gold as widely believed by the residents.
“We are here to give our side of the story. We are want to do quarry mining and not gold as has been reported by many people,” said Chipangura.
“We were awarded the tender to mine quarry by Mutare City Council after we responded to a tender that was advertised in the newspapers by council. Our bidding was accepted that is why we are here,” he said.
Chipangura said his company will avail modern mining technology that will be friendly to pollution and environmental degradation.
MAYA Coordinator Jusa Kudherezera on Wednesday confirmed that his organization held a meeting last Monday in Sakubva with Freestone Mines officials that included the owner – Ruoxin Qi.
After the meeting MAYA released a statement which read: “We complement City Of Mutare for positively responding to our call for dialogue out of which resulted in the meeting alluded to.”
The statement added: “MAYA through this minute reiterates its standing position that it will always support sustainable development in Mutare as long as they benefit the city and its people. We also expect the investors to abide by the laws of the land and respecting local customs and traditions
“We hope that the benefits that will accrue from the investment on Dangamvura Mountain, which is a treasure to all Mutareans will be shared among residents at large and not among the few chosen ones. The investment should be a source of wealth and not a curse for the people…” MAYA said.
Concerned residents have said they have since lost confidence and trust in UMRRT following its alleged biased handling of issues affecting residents, adding that the organization had sold out.
“We no longer have trust and confidence in UMRRT. From the beginning we thought we were together in this issue, but, we have realized that we have been used. Someone has sold out for the love of dirty money. UMRRT is a complete shame,” said an infuriated UMRRT member.
Another one added: “We have become a laughing stock in community as residents are now calling us sellouts as NGOs. Communities are angry. On the rates must fall campaign, again some sold out, hence, the increase in rates.”
UMRRT continues to fall out of favour with residents after it allegedly agreed to the rates hikes by council in the 2020 budget. The trending assertions from the community alleging that UMRRT is in support of the Dangamvura Mountain quarry deal could further compromise and impinge on its relations with the residents and donors.
Reached for a comment Dube said: “The events of next week will tell you all about this. Something big will happen next week. Our lawyer is Advocate Ndlovu. Check with him on our action plan.”
The move by UMRRT and MAYA is said to have torched some fierce rumblings of discontent.
Itai Kariparire a civic leader and President of Mutare Informal Traders Association (MITA) said: “As one of the community leaders. I realized that we have been pushing the cancellation of the deal even up to petitioning council. We want these consultations to go on so that the residents will question Freestone Mines whatever they want to know and this gives them an opportunity to agree or disagree with the deal. We want these consultation meetings to be published so that it won’t be a secret or a hide and sick game. Residents must say what they want.”
David Mutambirwa, the Programes Director for Mutare Residents And Ratepayers Association (MRRA) said: “It is very regrettable that our fellow citizens decided to sell our heritage just because of job promises. It is a tragedy that we still have people among us who think that the so called investors are interested in the welfare of members of the public.”
He added: “Business people by their nature are selfish and what they are interested in this business and nothing else. I personally feel that happy ignorant slaves are not easy to liberate.”
Human rights activist and the Director of Centre For Natural Resource and Governance (CNRG) Farai Maguwu said: “I hope it is not true. However, if some groups have been compromised then Mutare residents must soldier on defending Dangamvura Mountain through the courts and non violent resistance.”
Added Maguwu: “Resolutions were made at the residents meeting held at Skyview Hotel two weeks ago and residents unanimously said NO. That position must be respected by Mutare City Council, Freestone Mines, residents groups and CSOs working in Mutare.”
The Chairman of Commercial Federation For Manicaland Trust (CFMT) Phibion Ngorima said: “This is unethical. All residents, social groups and stakeholders were up in arms against Mutare City Council’s decision to award a tender to Freestone Mines for safety reasons, but, why a sudden change to support the tender? Is it the reason why they removed us from the residents groups and the budget committee? Personally I saw this coming. We hope that there are no people who will fly to China as a reward to supporting the tender.”
Reports are saying there is a team of Mutare City Councilors, council management and stakeholders who are set to fly to China for an exchange visit.
In a joint statement released recently, the civil society organizations said some mining activities by the Chinese have left some deep scars of regret in the affected communities.
“Bribed” civil society groups, accused of betraying residents