By Partinella Ngozo
KWEKWE: Residents in Newtown, close to the correctional prison are leaving in fear as illegal miners have invaded a place that is close by, causing untold environmental injustice to the community and plunging human safety in jeopardy.
“Illegal mining has begun near the correctional prisons where we reside. We don’t sleep at night with those heavy caterpillars making noise all night long until around 4am the following morning. Our health is now at risk due to the hazardous dust and noise that emanates from the mining. If you visit our residential area it is just dust throughout even inside our homes. We are worried about our health and that of our children if the mining closer to the areas persist. Please council we beg that you intervene. The place has become unbearable to reside,” pleaded a resident in attendance at a budget consultative meeting at Kwekwe theatre.
“Sometimes our houses vibrate due to the mining underground as characteristic on the onset of an earthquake. We once reported this issue to the police but nothing came out of it and the struggle still rages on. At one time my child complained about dust while he was sleeping. I had to provide him with some fresh milk to avoid the dust from causing long term respiratory problems in the future. What if I or my child contracts TB from all the dust that we inhale on a daily basis? We plead with you as the city council to try and help us,” she added.
Kwekwe has witnessed a surge in the number of illegal miners in recent years as the country’s grapples with soaring rates of both underemployment and unemployment. This has led to a massive increase in illegal mining activities wherever the panners deem it necessary for them even get close to residential areas. These gold panners are also known for their rowdy and violent behaviour hence residents fear to dialogue with them..
The police who are supposed to be acting against these atrocities have been reduced to mere spectators as most of the mining activities are allegedly politically motivated. This has led to one analyst asking, “Who will police the police?”
When this reporter visited the Newtown area where the environmental injustice is taking place, he could not help but sneeze a lot due to the dust that engulfs the area. Some residents in that area were helpless about the issue.
“Hapana zvatingaziite tinotongorarama nezviripo nekuti chero tikano reporter kumapurisa hakuna chinobuda. Zuva nezuva tinongonamata Tenzi kuti vatichengete isu nevana vedu nekuti utano hwedu nenzvimbo yatiri kugara zvakangowoma (The best that we can do is to pray to God to keep us safe because we have tried reporting this issue to the police but nothing has materialized), said a dejected resident who was striving vainly to control her incessant sneezing .
Most houses in the area, and the fruit trees from those houses were engulfed by dust emanating from the mining that is taking place.
In response, the Director of Works Engineer Mhike said that the city council will collaborate with the Zimbabwe Republic Police and look into the issue and bring finality.
“We don’t allow mining operations in residential areas. Yes we allow or decline mining in some of the places in Kwekwe but surely we don’t allow mining in areas where residents reside. However, we need to join hands with our law enforcers, the police to look into that issue and see how best we can help you on that one. The mining that you have alluded to is illegal and we will try to see how the residents in that area can be saved,” said Mhike.
Environmental injustice is down-right dangerous and there is need for the city council to act with urgency and help save the community from such atrocities that have serious climate injustice.