By NQOBANI NDLOVU
A mine wrangle pitting a Bulawayo businesswoman and Mines ministry officials has drawn the attention of Zanu PF, traditional leaders, ex-combatants, villagers and the opposition from Matabeleland who are all fighting in her corner to stop attempts to forcibly grab her mining claims.
Siphiwe Gasha-Dube has since 2012 been fighting attempts by the Mines and Mining Development ministry to evict her from her five mining claims at Legion mine in Sun-Yat-Sen, Maphisa in Matabeleland South province.
Gasha-Dube’s troubles began in 2012 when she allegedly refused to assent to demands by a former chief mining commissioner (name supplied) to cede 35% shares of her claims to him to ostensibly protect her from eviction.
After constant pestering and her refusal, in 2016, Gasha-Dube was forced to cease operations after Mines officials then claimed that her claims had been bought by one Thomas Gono, based in Harare.
Since then, Gasha-Dube, who started mining operations at Legion mine in 2000, claimed she has been tossed from one office to the other with no joy.
The mine wrangle, which has seen mining equipment she bought to boost operations costing over US$500 000 now lying idle and gathering dust while workers were sent home, has since attracted the attention of the Matabeleland leadership now fighting in her corner.
“We will not allow this to happen to one of our own,” railed an angry Zanu PF central committee member Senator Molly Mpofu during an all stakeholders meeting called by Chief Nyangazonke of Kezi to find a solution to the mine wrangle.
“We will not be silenced, and neither will we keep quiet about this nauseating discrimination against one of our own; discrimination against a defenceless woman by men taking advantage of the fact that she is a widow. She has been recognised for her mining efforts, winning awards and then the next thing an unknown corrupt crook tries to grab her property. As women in Parliament, and as a party, we will not accept this.”
Gasha-Dube won a prize for the Best Female Small-Scale Gold Miner of the Year in 2014 and 2016. Documents show that she produced a substantial amount of gold as evidenced by the production of returns from Fidelity Printers and Refiners.
Between 2003 and 2010, she produced 54,2kg of gold.
In an interview, the businesswoman was at pains to explain her losses after being forced to cease mining operations to pave way for one Gono.
“My only crime was to refuse to shed 35% of my shares and royalties to the then chief mining commissioner. My other crime was being transparent, selling gold through legal channels and attracting attention from some quarters that are pushing that I be evicted from this property,” Gasha-Dube said.
“All I have been asking for is to continue operations without any harassment, without any threats to grab this property from me after investing a fortune running into several thousands of US dollars since 2000 when this place was just a dense bush.”
Gasha-Dube has built houses, electrified the whole compound, sunk boreholes for the community, provided jobs for the youth among other corporate social responsibility programmes in the area, indicated Fada Nyathi, a community representative.
“I am from this district and now suffering because the mine has been given to this one Gono whom I have never met; why?” Gasha-Dube asked.
Chief Nyangazonke, who was in the company of Chief Malaba, vowed to ensure that Gasha-Dube is not evicted.
In 2015, traditional leaders such as Chief Nyangazonke mobilised the community, opposition parties, government officials and civic society activists to stop the eviction of commercial farmer Peter Cunningham from his Maleme Farm in Matobo district to pave way for a state agent Rodney Mashingaidze.
“This is not something new, and the question that remains is: Why are we being discriminated against? As traditional leaders, we will employ all strategies and explore all avenues to stop this discriminatory practice against women and against our people,” Chief Nyangazonke said.
In the Maleme case, traditional leaders and villagers never stopped holding meetings and vigils at the ranch, while also seeking intervention from then vice-president Phelekezela Mphoko and then Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora to reverse the acquisition.
Mphoko intervened, ordering Mashingaidze to vacate the property, before directing the Lands ministry to identify a farm for him elsewhere in his home district.
“We want this matter solved amicably without people resorting to aggressive means, but what is obvious is there is clear abuse of power by some in offices and we also plead with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to take a keen interest in this case,” Chief Nyangazonke said.