CNRG launches Right To Say No global campaign in Penhalonga

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CNRG launches Right To Say No global campaign in Penhalonga

CNRG director Farai Maguwu during the launch of the Penhalonga Right To Say No campaign held in Mutare.

Ngoni Dapira

THE late celebrated South African President, Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

This was enunciated during a recently held Penhalonga launch of the Right To Say No global campaign held in Mutare. The global campaign against the violation of people’s rights in mining communities is being initiated in four mining communities in Zimbabwe, namely Penhalonga, Hwange, Marange and Mutoko, by the think-tank organisation, Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG).

CNRG director Farai Maguwu  said communities have the right to say no against Government directives when there is unconstitutional violation of their rights.

“This programme aims at haunting the environmental catastrophe that is unfolding in Penhalonga as well as in Marange, Hwange and Mutoko. We are however focusing more on Penhalonga as a key priority because of the massive unregulated mining happening there which will take decades to repair,” said Maguwu, a renowned human rights activist and academic researcher.

He said the programme will run for 11 months, from February 2023 to December 2023 and the purpose of the campaign will be to conscientize communities so that they exercise their own urgency in stopping environmental degradation from mining and social decay in their communities.

“This is a resistance campaign which is evidence based and community centred. We have to achieve the intended results in 11 months. It’s not just ending at making noise but we want to ensure that duty bearers take concrete action against uncontrolled mining and environmental degradation,” said the CNRG director.

Penhalonga community members following proceedings during the launch.

This comes on the heels of suspension of operations of Better Brands in Penhalonga on 20 January following an issuance of a non-compliance of safe mining conditions and waste management order on January 8 by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).

Before the suspension, community based organisation that include Centre for Research and Development (CRD), Penhalonga Youth Development Trust (PYDT), Zivai Community Empowerment Trust (ZICET), Penhalonga Service Delivery Committee (PSDC) and Penhalonga Residents and Ratepayers Trust (PRRT) had made a joint statement during a press conference held in Mutare against the operations of Better Brands at the Redwing Mine concession.

The CBOs were calling on the relevant authorities to suspend mning operations by Better Brands due to the rise in deaths of artisanal gold mine workers at the mine who were working in unsafe mining shafts created by the mining concern.

In December 2020, Better Brands was awarded a non-standard tributary agreement by the government through the Mining Affairs Board to undertake surface and underground mining activities at Redwing Mine.

“Since 2020, we have observed that Better Brands has engaged artisanal miners in subsistence surface mining operations at Redwing Mine in what appears to be lack of capacity by the company to invest in modern large scale gold mining…We have noticed that these artisanal mine workers are poorly resourced. They are dying from shaft and roof collapsing as a result of weak and unsupported ground. Some are also dying from falling into unprotected pits ranging from 30 to 50 metres deep,” read the statement.

CNRG field officer Rachael Jambo said the Right To Say No campaign and activities will mostly be centred on training communities on formal and informal ways to exercise their rights. “Our gun is the Constitution and the law. This is what we use to fight Government. Information is power and once we know and understand the law nothing can stop us from executing our rights,” she said.

She added that there is lot of violation of the law in mining in Zimbabwe but no one is challenging the Government, which is why individuals get off scot free.

Jambo said pre-prior informed consent of the community before mining companies commence mining operations is one of the prerequisites they are teaching communities in mining towns to avoid the current conflict.

“There should be engagement with community and not just the top-down approach. This will put investors to task as they are quizzed by communities on what they will do for the community when they start operations and what the community expects in return for amicable relations between the mining company and the community,” she said.

Adding, “This is when crucial questions are asked. Will locals be gainfully employed by the company? Will they build schools or clinics for the community? Will women be employed? All these are questions which are asked during pre-prior informed consent.”

The launch was attended by members from PRRT and ZICET.

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