WATCH: Farmers in dispute with miner Farming activity at a farm in Kensington

Raymond Jaravaza, [email protected]

FARMERS in Kensington, a peri-urban area on the outskirts of Bulawayo, are at loggerheads with a local gold miner whom they accuse of mining in their backyards and is allegedly disrupting their agricultural activities.

They said due to the mining activities, they recorded low yields as the blasting has also affected the water tables resulting in water shortages in boreholes.

The farmers who are into irrigation farming sell their produce in Bulawayo.

A majority of the plot owners survive on farming activities such as cattle rearing, and horticulture farming.

The mine at the centre of the controversy is Hope Valley Mine, also known as Gunners Syndicate. It is surrounded by about six plots, which are nearby. There are other plots dotted around the mine.

Last week, farmers held a meeting to discuss how their livelihoods were being affected by the mining at Hope Valley Mine.

During the meeting, farmers shared sad tales of how their livelihoods have allegedly been affected by the mining activities.

Dr Bigboy Ngwenya, one of the most affected farmers, said he believes the water table in the area has been affected by mining activities resulting in water shortages.

“We are not farming at full capacity because we don’t have water. The mining activities have affected the water table and two of my boreholes have dried up,” he said.

“We now rely on one borehole hence I am now been forced to scale down farming. Our crops rely on irrigation so there is no way we can plant maize, onions, and cabbages among other crops and still leave some water for the animals.”

Dr Ngwenya said recently one of his cows fell into a pit allegedly left open by the artisanal miners at Hope Valley Mine.

He, however, managed to rescue the animal.

“It’s a miracle the cow is still alive, we searched for it for over 24 hours only to find it lying in a ditch and it was badly injured. The cow still can’t walk and we are now pen-feeding it until it fully recovers,” said Dr Ngwenya.

He said he was also forced to build new workers’ quarters as the existing ones had developed cracks due to the constant underground blasting of explosives by the artisanal miners.

The owner of the mine, Mr Garikai Mhino said: “I was taken to court by one of the farmers and the High Court ruled that I must stop mining as long as the mine didn’t meet some EMA requirements such as an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment), which I’m working on.

“If there is any mining activity taking place right now then it’s probably my guys who are being mischievous and doing things without my authority. I will speak to the guys and tell them to desist from doing anything at the mine until we comply with the High Court order.”

Mr Garikai Mhino

He accused some of the plot holders of plotting against him with the hope of having access to his mine.

“I’m not surprised that they want to force me out for their benefit. There is no reason why we can’t mine while at the same time, they farm and we work together in peace. If they have issues, the residents should engage me so that we iron them out,” said Mr Mhino.

Former Kensington councillor Mr Leonard Mhlanga said the area is no longer a mining area after it was designated as an agricultural area.

 “The area where Mr Mhino is mining is now a residential place after we resolved as the then Bulawayo Esigodini Rural District Council back then that Kensington is no longer a mining area, but an agricultural area where residents can farm,” he said.

“His mining activities are affecting us and we are saying he should vacate this place as a matter of urgency.”

The Kensington Residents Association (Village 4) chairperson Mrs Nothando Ngwenya said she was arrested in 2021 when she met residents who wanted to air their grievances about Mr Mhino’s mine.

“Out of the 41 residents that attended the meeting, I was the only one arrested at the instigation of Mhino. I believe he wanted to intimidate me to stop meeting with residents to air their grievances,” she said.

“Our houses are developing cracks because of the explosives that they use and our boreholes are drying up and it’s all because of the mine.”

Local councillor Bansi Mpofu said he was aware of the concerns from residents and Mr Mhino.

He, however, said it was too early for him to comment since he is still new in council.

“This issue has been in the courts before, it’s a 2012 issue and I’m only six months into office so I think it’s too early for me to comment considering that I’ve only been in office for a few months,” said Clr Mpofu.


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