By New Zimbabwe
CHINESE mining firm, Zhongxin Mining Group Tongmao Coal Company (Pvt) Ltd, has made a spirited defence of its controversial operations in the giant Hwange National Park and wants the High Court case in which a local environmental group is seeking its eviction, dismissed on technical grounds.
This came out during the set down on the case heard Thursday last week before Justice Owen Tagu.
The judge had promised to deliver a ruling on the case on Monday this week but indefinitely postponed his judgement.
The firm, represented by Jingini Tsivama of Sawyer and Mukushi, argued that it had no case to answer since there was a dispute of facts, insisting there were no mining activities taking place except for exploratory works.
Tsivama also appeared for the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), the second respondent while Advocate Agyver Sawunyama appeared for applicants, the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (Zela) and a Hwange resident, Fidelis Chima.
The company also argues that the application was defective in that President Emmerson Mnangagwa was not jointed in the case along with Environment and Tourism minister Mangaliso Ndlovu as should have been the case.
This is despite that Ndlovu’s representative had submitted that she was not opposed to the relief sought and requested to be excused from further proceedings as the minister would abide by the court’s decision after cabinet at its meeting last week resolved to terminate all mining permits in wildlife reserves.
However, Sawunyama countered the argument saying the non-joinder did not destroy the case.
“The minister of mines is the person who issued the special grant; he is therefore cited as the issuing authority. It’s bizarre that the 1st and 2nd respondents take that point when the minister said he is not opposed to the relief sought.
“Also, the rules of the High Court, specifically rule 87 says that a non-joinder does not destroy a case in an urgent application where no relief is sought against the president or even his cabinet appointee,” Sawunyama argued.
Zela and Chima applied to the High Court to stop the Chinese company from mining coal within the national park, which hosts one of Africa’s largest populations of elephants saying activities would cause devastating ecological degradation and force wildlife to flee.
The applicants also argued that mining may cause a decline in tourism and decrease the incomes of local residents who rely on it, while poaching and conflict between people and wildlife could increase.
More than 45,000 elephants are estimated to live in Hwange park along with more than 100 mammal and 400 bird species.
These include buffaloes, leopards and lions that are already struggling for food and water in the vast savannah due to prolonged drought.