SYDNEY SAIZE IN MUTARE
The mayor of the City of Mutare, Blessing Tandi, has threatened to step down following an outcry from residents over the leasing of the Dangamvura mountain range to the Chinese firm Freestone Mines.
At a heated engagement with residents last week, Tandi said he was ready to step down if residents believed the US$7 500 per annum ‘sacred’ mountain transaction was a ‘lame duck deal’.
“I will not hesitate to leave my post and resign from council if what we did is seen as unfair and below board by residents. But I still stand by what we did that was done in the best interest of the city and its residents. We stand to create employment for about 100 people and get a cheaper quarry from the investment compared to that from Joubert Crushers and Davies,” Tandi said.
“The investment will also create line employment, besides the US$7 500 per year which is also subject to renewal every six months, the council will get the product for road surfacing very close and much cheaper.”
The mayor allayed fear of infrastructural damage from the blasting of stone stating that the council had established that latest methods would be used to avoid the effects of nearby buildings cracking owing to the quarrying activities.
But residents insisted the deal had to be rescinded as it was done before an Environmental Impact Assessment had been carried out.
Itai Kariparire of the vocal Mutare Informal Traders Association, said the deal was a non- starter citing the lack of consultation of residents and other stakeholders.
“There were no consultations and therefore we demand that this deal be declared void. We should have been consulted first as interested parties. We understand a previous investor (a Mungwari) was denied such a quarrying business at the same mountain but now it has been offered to another foreign investor for what reasons. In any case that area is too close to residential areas and not fit to carry such activities,” Kariparire said.
Former Mutare mayor Brian James said the business venture has to be situated out of Mutare’s environs.
“We may argue about the investment being foreign, but what is key is that let it be out of the boundaries of human habitation to avoid unnecessary friction,” James said.
Lynnette Mudehwe a Mutare resident accused the city fathers of leasing the ‘sacred mountain’ for a song adding they should actually offer it to the youths for reforestation and regreening for free and attract tourists.
“The name of the investor sums it all, Freestone Mines! You mean to say they are simply getting the granite for free! We have had a lot of challenges with such investors starting from Chiadzwa, Mutoko, Hwange and Norton, their track record is not one of the best! Let’s think again about this investor and the so-called investment,” Mudehwe fumed.
Jusa Kudhedhereza of the Mutare Youth Assembly , an organisation that advocates for environmental safeguarding said their attempt to reforest the mountain had been thwarted by the new development at the mountain the city council had leased to the Freestone Mines company.
“The trees that we had planted were destroyed as they did their preliminary work and we do not know what to do now as a way forward, but the council had given us the green light to go ahead with our work.
The Environmental Management Agency provincial manager for Manicaland, Kingstone Chitotombe said as far as he knew Freestone had the clearance to go ahead with their work since they had an EIA certificate.
“As of Friday 19 November 2021, when I visited their site, they had their papers in place despite having had an earlier application turned down,” Chitotombe said
Freestone Mines has since stopped operation as the dispute between the residents and the city council rages on over its operations which has been viewed as shadowy.
The residents have threatened to take legal action against the council over its actions.