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De Beers Chair, Mining Minister Chitando In Showdown

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The two ministries of Mining and Agriculture, both responsible for the chunk of Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product GDP, are in a show down after Nicky Oppenheimer, chair of South Africa’s diamond giant, De Beers, waded into arguably the biggest fight of his career, to save his Zimbabwean farm from being turned into a mine which may threaten operations at his ranch in conserving wild life on it such as the extinct rare white and black vultures as well as stop his very farming production which also contributes to the Economy.

Mining rights take precedence ahead of any activity on land in Zimbabwe.The Oppenheimer project, if not disturbed, will increase its cattle herd from 8 000 to 19 000 in a decade.The farm is home to an endangered species of vultures and wildlife corridor for elephants.

The Oppenheimer family stands to lose part of their 65 000-hectare farm in Zimbabwe because, according to the country’s laws, mining rights take precedence ahead of any other activity on portioned land.

Last Thursday, the family secured a court interdict in Zimbabwe to block mineral exploration at its Shangani Ranch in Matabeleland South.

It is a brief reprieve because, in the court ruling, Harare High Court Judge Siyabona Paul Musithu said exploration could only go ahead if there was an environmental impact assessment certificate issued by the country’s Environmental Management Agency (EMA).

The order temporarily halts the exploration work by Pearline Mineral Exploration.

If the miner obtains an EMA certificate work can proceed. The court noted without the proper environmental assessment, exploration work had the “potential to cause harm to the environment, but also to livestock and wildlife”.

The Oppenheimers’ land has always been on the radar but not for mining purposes. In 1998, Nicky Oppenheimer, heir to the DeBeers diamond fortune, sought the attention of Mugabe.

Mugabe was quoted in the press as saying: “Nicky Oppenheimer wrote to me about the designation of his vast estate. We can’t leave him all that land. But we have given his objections to our teams.”

At the time, one government official claimed the farm was as big as Belgium; however, that was an exaggeration to rabble-rouse land-hungry war veterans.

To block the latest interest coming from mining, the family said their farm was also a wildlife sanctuary that was home to some of the world’s most endangered species.

“The ranch is also a wildlife sanctuary for male elephants. The ranch lies within a wildlife corridor for elephants. The ranch is also home to white-backed vultures and white-headed vultures, which are considered to be critically endangered species. There are also lappet-faced vultures that are considered endangered species as well,” they added in court papers.

Mining ahead of everything else? TechnoMag reached out to the responsible ministries led by Mines Minister Honourable Winston Chitando and Agricultural, Lands, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement Minister Honourable Dr Anxious Jongwe Masuka.Who Will win Between Honourable Minister Chitando and Honourable Minister Masuka?Mining Always Takes Precedence Even For SA’s Richest Man As Oppenheimer’s Fight To Save Portion Of Zimbabwean Ranch From Mining.

The Mines and Minerals Act gives a miner or investor power to displace people because that law supersedes many other laws in Zimbabwe.

So, if one was carrying out farming activity and a mineral was discovered on the land, then mining takes precedence over any other activity or use of the land.

In March, the High Court granted miner DS Syndicate a prohibitory interdict against a farmer in Kadoma who sought to stop the firm from mining on his farm.

In April, the country’s National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) noted there were numerous disputes between miners and farmers. As such, it recommended to President Emmerson Mnangagwa that legislation was needed to solve these problems.

The NPRC said in the recommendations to the president:

The disputes between miners and farmers are old and go right back to the days of the British South Africa Company [during the settler invasions], but with more intensive farming and the conversion of much private land to state land leased out or allocated to individuals the problem has become worse.

Last year, the government issued 25 exclusive prospecting orders (EPOs) to give mining firms the power to prospect for mineral resources.

This was in line with the country’s ambitious creation of a USD$$12 billion Economy equivalent to R192 billion mining industry by 2023.

According to the government gazette, each EPO covers 65 000 hectares, the size of the Oppenheimer farm.

A window into the Oppenheimer empire in Zimbabwe

One of Africa’s richest families has been in Zimbabwe since the 1930s. They owned a 140 000-hectare farm that stretched from Matabeleland South into the Midlands province.

The area stretches through four of Zimbabwe’s eight rural provinces. It was the largest privately owned property under the name DEBSHAN, short for De Beers Shangani Estate, until the government of late president Robert Mugabe seized part of the farm for resettlement at the turn of the millennium.

At the time the farm was resized, it was home to about 21 000 cattle and exported around 4 000 to the UK, raising revenue well into millions of American dollars.

In court papers, according to the family, the resized farm was now home to 8 000 cattle and projections were that, in about a decade, it could hold at least 19 000.

Their lawyer, Thabani Mpofu, submitted in court papers:

It [the client] intends to increase the herd to about 19 000 in 10 years. It exports beef products, mostly to the United Kingdom, where there is a high demand for 100% grass-fed beef products at the ranch.

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