Sharp factional fighting within the ruling party and failed underhand dealings over the shareholding structure of mining operations in Chilonga Community has led to a temporary climb down by Government, Zim Morning Post can report.
In a new Statutory Instrument issued Friday, the Government repealed an earlier order that would have forced families in the area, covering 12,940 hectares, to leave the land immediately.
Despite the changes the project itself remains.
Insiders told Zim Morning Post that Government’s move to no longer immediately evict villagers to make way for a controversial Lucerne project in Chilonga, was not on compassionate grounds but a stop-gap measure instigated by the military faction within Zanu PF who want to be part of the gravy train.
“If they do not have a share in the deal then it should collapse. The military faction would rather have the deal collapse than to partner rivals. It is too early to celebrate. It is not about you but them,” said an impeccable source.
Zim Morning Post in early March revealed that Government’s widely condemned move to evict thousands of villagers from Chilonga to pave way for Lucerne grass farming had been further mired in controversy amid reports the area has rich diamond deposits which will be mined under the cover of dairy production.
Insiders said the temporary somersault by the Government is largely due to clashes between Zanu PF factions on how mining activities would be carried out.
“The two legislators whose people were to be affected refused to play ball and decided to be on the side of the people,” said the source.
“Chiredzi South legislator Kalisto Gwanetsa and Chiredzi East MP Denford Masiya are in the military faction so they made sure the project was to be resisted. They both have a military background so they made sure that they push the military faction agenda.”
Insiders told Zim Morning Post that the take-over of the Chilonga Community was being spearheaded by Local Government minister, July Moyo.
The displacement was aimed at allowing the operations of Dendairy, a company owned by Neville Coetzee, a close ally of Moyo and President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Officials say the project is key to rebuilding Zimbabwe’s dairy industry.
Moyo is Mnangagwa’s right hand man and is the force behind the throne.
A high powered delegation led by top government officials is said to have held a series of meetings with traditional chiefs in the area to convince villagers to leave but the military faction had already earlier assured them that they had their full support and they should not be intimidated into leaving.
Factional fires have been brewing between Mnangagwa’s loyalists and the military faction fronted by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, since Mnangagwa assumed power from long time ruler former President Robert Mugabe.
The two warring factions have been at each other’s throats, battling to control and run income generating projects aimed at building war chests ahead of the 2023 elections.
Mnangagwa loyalists have since taken over the mining sector while Chiwenga’s backers are land barons who control large tracts of land.
As was first reported by the Zim Morning Post, the Chilonga evictions have provided a new battle ground with warring factions eager to control the mining of diamond deposits.
Officially, the Chilonga project, the Government has said, will increase farm output across the Lowveld by drawing irrigation water from Tugwi-Mukosi, the country’s largest inland dam.
However, sources say the bigger picture for political elites and their cronies is the rich kimberlite deposits in the area.
An aero-magnetic survey commissioned by the Government through the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development in 2019 established diamond and gold deposits in Mwenezi and Chiredzi.
The surveyed block for diamonds, done by Aero Surv Zimbabwe in partnership with South African firm Xcalibur Airborne Geophysics, is said to have covered about 8 800km stretching over Ngundu, Rutenga and other parts of Mwenezi.
“Huge diamond deposits were discovered around the Chingwizi area in Mwenezi while gold was found in northern Chikombedzi following an aero-magnetic survey commissioned by the Government,” Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Ezra Chadzamira told State media in June 2020.
“The Ministry of Mines will outline the next course of action after this discovery, but we are excited as a province because this will help grow our provincial Gross Domestic Product and also help the nation achieve its target to make mining a US$12 billion industry by 2023,” added Minister Chadzamira.
Impeccable sources told Zim Morning Post that a huge cover up could be unfolding.
“These guys know the geographical distribution of minerals including the number of kimberlite pipes and dykes in Zimbabwe and they spend days and nights strategizing how to take over. They forge alliances with those in the corridors of power so that land is parcelled to them,” said an insider.
“The political elites then brainwash the ancestral inhabitants with the same rhetoric, that of employment creation, building of schools, boreholes, dams and all other social amenities lacking in the targeted area.”
Former Higher and Tertiary Education deputy minister, Godfrey Gandawa believes there is no “credible economic argument for evicting 12,500 people to make way for a project that can be done elsewhere, or by the present inhabitants of the land.”
While underneath, the whole issue is a factional fight over control of resources, critics of the project on the other hand accused the Government of favouring Dendairy in a project that will unfairly displace thousands of already disadvantaged families from their ancestral land.
Community leaders say no agreement was reached in consultations that have gone on for over two years.
Before Friday’s Statutory Instrument, a Masvingo magistrate earlier this month had granted temporary relief to the Chilonga Community with the State given until 31 March to give valid reasons why the community must be displaced from their ancestral homeland.