MUTARE- Mayor, councilor Blessing Tandi is facing public backlash for granting license to a Chinese mining company without following due process including consulting residents.
Tandi, has been singled out for misleading city fathers together with suspended acting Town Clerk Dr Anthony Mutara to sign the largely secretive deal with Freestone Private Limited.
Sections of civic society and residents are now pushing for redrafting of the annual lease agreement set at US$7 500,00 following engagements with town planning, confirming that council had no documents to show compliance by the miner.
Speaking during a public stakeholder engagement organised by Information Development Trust and United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust (UMRRT), residents are now calling for a new deal.
UMRRT director, Edson Dube said residents and ratepayers are perturbed by the paltry resource rents that will be paid by the miner without any clear model of sustainability.
He said council is complit in the illegal deal as the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) report shows that only a few residents were consulted for both the certificate and report before investment initially commenced.
“We feel that the community was not properly consulted before the project started, this is the general agitation from the community.
“We need the lease to be redrafted to address the social license, we need guarantees that the operations of the mining company will not affect the lives of residents in the city.
“Corporate social responsibility issues are also not catered for in this deal, and having done comparative analysis we see no set program to ensure the community will benefit from the mining investment,” said Dube.
Farai Maguwu executive director for Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), said council should preserve seentimental value of the mountain in an ecologically sensitive area,nclose to residential and education institution as it affects socio-economic heritage of the city.
He said the Chinese miner, was liable to prosecution and litigation, as they violated environmental laws by engaging in preparatory works without consulting residents.
“The law states clearly that an investor cannot carry out any activity without consulting residents, so it means that the Chinese violated the law. But do you see any of them in prison? Who has been arrested for violating these environmental laws?
“With all these misgivings its important that there is dialogue with residents. We cannot allow a situation where leadership impose and make unilateral decisions which affects the populace of the city and surrounding areas.
“We should hold leaders to account whenever they make decisions that affect residents,” he said.
Mayor Tandi, addressing the same meeting, admitted that a total reversal of the deal would be impossible opting instead for renegotiating some terms.
Tandi said greenlight had been obtained from experts with blasting effects, emissions and operational distance from residential stands or other buildings in the vicinity of the city, cleared as safe.
He said the financially humstrung council seeks to increase its revenue base through investment and shield residents from high rate charges.
“The project was informed by a series of feasibility studies, it shows that industries and residential areas can co-exist basing on other projects done in other cities. Capital outlay became the investment stumbling block for council investment hence the need to engage investors.
“These charges are not cast in stone but can also change with the changes of other rates. As council on devolution we have a GDP target, that is why we have resolved the matter of the valuation role to improve our economic fortunes,” he said.
Tandi said the deal will not only break monopoly of Joubert Crushers, only commercial supplier of concrete quarry stones, but also see production road surfacing quarry stones.
On the nominal lease fees, the under fire Mayor said this had been granted to incentivize with a lucrative package valid only for 8 months (paid annually) where after the miner would pay start monthly rentals.
“Our budget, is now informed by an update valuation roll, and is not stagnant so our monthly charges will also respond to the changes within the economy.
“We may need to restructure the agreements to improve fortunes of the city and business investment patterns that helps our country to develop, but our focus should be on leveraging and exploiting the abundant mineral resources in the country,” said Tandi.