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Chinese company returns to Hwange after Mnangagwa issues new Special Grant

by Staff reporter
22 Apr 2021 at 21:34hrs | Views
A Chinese company which sparked an international outcry after setting up a coal mine inside the Hwange National Park - before it was ordered out - has been awarded a new Special Grant by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

A Government Gazette published on April 16 says that "the minister of mines and mining development, with the authorisation of the president, has… issued Special Grant No. 8477 to Afrochine Smelting (Private) Limited, for a period of three years…"

The Gazette did not specify the area of the coal mine, except stating that it is in "Matabeleland North Mining District." Mines minister Winston Chitando and the permanent secretary in his ministry Onismo Mazai Moyo, who made the insertion in the Gazette, declined to answer our questions.

A spokesman for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) which oversees all national parks told ZimLive that "the Special Grant is not within the protected areas."

The Zimbabwe government is under pressure to fulfil promises made to Chinese companies involved in coal mining and power projects in Hwange - but land is running out which is forcing authorities to turn their eyes to the sprawling wildlife sanctuary and surrounding communal lands.

When Zimbabwe reversed its decision to license Afrochine and another Chinese company Zhongxin Coal Mining Group to mine the Hwange National Park in September last year, China lectured the country's leaders on the need to be transparent.

Guo Shaochun, the Chinese ambassador, said he wanted the Zimbabwean government to be more transparent and to "use mining proceeds to develop itself and improve the lives of its people", using a tone usually taken by Western diplomats from the United States and European countries.

Campaigners and environmentalists had rallied against any coal exploration inside the park, warning of "ecological degradation" and grave threats to a wide range of animal species, including 45,000 elephants.

Tinashe Farawo, the spokesman for Zimparks, said: "The Special Grant is not within the protected areas."

He however would not rule out the possibility that the Special Grant covers safari areas around the park where he said "mining activities can happen and have been happening since time immemorial."

Last year's debacle when both Afrochine and Zhongxin were kicked off the park exposed sharp differences between the tourism and mines ministries, with one official remarking that "the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing."

The Chinese companies had arrived at the park with letters from the mines ministry. Park officials caused the arrest of some representatives of the miners, complaining that they had no input to the decision to mine the park.

Source - zimlive