MUTARE – Mutare City Mayor Blessing Tandi, who is under pressure from irked residents and stakeholders who accuse him of having been bribed by a Chinese miner to lease Dangamvura Mountain for a song, has opened up saying he was never bribed, but he is only following council resolutions and investment policy.
Mutare City Council leased its 6.5 hectare stand number 13415 Mutare township situated on Dangamvura Mountain to Freestone Mines, a Chinese owned Company.
The 10-year lease agreement will see Freestone Mines pay a meagre US$7 557 as annual fee to council in order to conduct its quarry stone mining operations.
Irate residents of Mutare are up in arms with Mutare City Council and Freestone Mines, which they accuse of starting operations without consulting the community.
Dangamvura residents have raised concerns on the impending environmental degradation pollution that include dust, property destruction as a result of blasting and vibration activities.
“Yes people have various opinions and they have the right to stick to those opinions. People always say what they want and I respect those views. The truth of the matter is that I was never bribed by the Chinese. I never received anything to pass favour in as far as the Dangamvura Mountain is concerned. I am a Christian and I do not believe in accepting bribes. My office is open and I can assist anyone who needs my help as the Mayor of Mutare,” said Tandi.
“If l was corrupt or if I received any bribes from someone, as some people might think, I should have amassed massive wealth. I should have bought properties and beautiful cars, but I still drive a Toyota
Venture,” he said.
“I do not have any skeletons in my closet. I am an office bearer who is based on principals. My duty is to implement all council resolutions made by the full council. My duty is to make and enhance policies that are good for the development of the city,” explained Tandi.
The Mayor said the leasing of Dangamvura Mountain to Freestone Miners was a full council resolution and not his single idea or influence.
“On this deal, my role was only to implement want the councilors had resolved in a full council meeting regarding this issue,” said Tandi.
“People are not looking on the future side of this deal. It is an investment drive that will see more than 100 people being employed. This will also increase our revenue collection as council and there will be a lot of benefits to this deal,” he said.
Residents and stakeholders have maintained that the resolutions be rescinded.
Former Dangamvura/Chikanga Member of Parliament and highly decorated human rights lawyer Arnold Tsunga described the issue of the Dangamvura Mountain as an abuse of office.
“Our Mayor and some of our honorable councilors are all aware. Would it be out of line to ask them how long they need to correct the mistake of giving our heritage to Chinese environmental degraders? I think they need a week of them to meet and adopt appropriate corrective resolutions to restore the status quo is in order,” said Tsunga.
“After that we would then need to invoke all measures as citizens of Manicaland to protect our interests and heritage. The theft from Marange and Penhalonga is enough. At some point we need to put a stop on this abuse and we cannot be perpetual victims. We need all our authorities and our people to treasure and protect our environment,”
Richard Mugobo from the Big Conversation said: “Considering the history of corruption at Mutare City Council, this is the worst of all councilors to ever govern the Mutare City.”
“We will continue to engage with our residents ad ratepayers. The best objective will carry the day. We are here to present democracy. At the end of the day we want a win win situation,” explained Tandi.
Residents groups and observers have alleged that the whole process was mired in controversy and covered in dark secrets. They have called for the stoppage of mining operations.