Documentary Exposes Redwing Mine: An Enigma of Gold Production in Zimbabwe 

-The unchecked expansion of mining operations has resulted in accidents, loss of livelihoods, and environmental degradation.

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe –  Redwing Mine, a once-thriving symbol of Zimbabwe’s gold production, now stands as a testament to the challenges of accountability, resource governance, and the need for youth involvement in the mining sector.

A recent documentary titled ‘Toxic Treasures: Unmasking The Gold Mafia of Penhalonga’ by Magamba TV has shed light on the intricate issues plaguing the region.

Penhalonga, a historic mining town in Manicaland Province, about 270 km east of the capital, Harare, finds itself grappling with the aftermath of reckless mining practices and environmental degradation.

The documentary vividly portrays the struggles of the local community, revealing stories of political exploitation and environmental abuse that cast a shadow over the future of the mine.

The collapse of a shaft in January, trapping 15 mine workers underground, brought attention to the mine’s mismanagement.

Better Brands, led by Pedzai ‘Scott’ Sakupwanya, a ZANU PF legislator, was accused of facilitating illegal mining activities that led to the disaster.

The ensuing ownership dispute further exposed the lack of accountability within the mining industry.

Metallon Corporation, which officially owns the mine, issued a statement regarding the accident, which revealed the ownership war.

Environmental concerns raised by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) led to the temporary closure of Redwing Mine in December 2021.

However, the agency’s efforts to enforce environmental regulations have been hindered by a lack of cooperation from mining operators.

“As far as the Agency is concerned and acting within its mandate, Redwing has been issued with an environmental protection order to cease operations after realising that mining practices at the mine were done in a manner that was harming the environment and also likely to pose a risk to public safety.

The agency has over time been heralded for raising the red flag on the mining practices being used by the mine,” Amkela Sidange, EMA’s Education and Publicity Manager, told ConserveZim. 

Amkela hinted that “monitoring mining operations is a multi-sector and stakeholder concern, including the agency, and we assure the public that it is equal to the task of performing what is mandated and expected as per the legal frameworks it is enforcing. 

Finally, the agency is urging those into mining to ensure that they embrace best mining practices that are environmentally safe and socially acceptable.” 

Amkela was responding to concerns raised by residents in Penhalonga and captured in the documentary that Redwing has been unable to reclaim the area where mining is taking place, leading to accidents that have claimed the lives of humans and livestock.

Local residents expressed grievances over the mine’s disregard for community well-being and safety.

The unchecked expansion of mining operations has resulted in accidents, loss of livelihoods, and environmental degradation.

Despite promises of employment opportunities for youth, many have fallen victim to hazardous working conditions and a lack of accountability from mining operators.

“They have fenced off areas designated for grazing, forcing themselves onto pieces of land, digging pits, and abandoning them later, resulting in accidents involving humans and livestock,” a young male cattle herder complained.

“A man fell into one of these pits while drunk recently; nobody saw him in time to assist; he was only found in an advanced decomposed state by some miners who picked up a stench coming from one of the pits,” Zenzo Macheka, a female community leader, concurred.

“Chances are very high; our houses are sitting on top of mining tunnels and could curve in soon,” Florence Mapfumo, another community member, said.

“There is no accountability regarding the mining deals there, and we hear Better Brands is running the mine like (makorokoza) illegal gold miners,” another female community member said.

She alleges several young men from the community died when Better Brands came in, 20 to 30 bodies were retrieved at one moment. These are documented cases; what more of those not accounted for?” she questioned.

Farai Maguwu, founder of the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), highlighted the systemic issues plaguing gold mining across Zimbabwe.

Communities are marginalized from decision-making processes, leading to environmental harm and health risks, particularly for women and children.

“They don’t have mining equipment, Scott Sakupwanya got some permits and got into partnerships with some Redwing employees and started mining like makorokoza, most of them are suffocating to death; in a case of having miners trapped, Scott does not have equipment to rescue them,” he claimed.

To address these challenges, stakeholders emphasise the importance of parliamentary oversight, community engagement, and contract transparency.

Alois Nyamazana, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Manager at Accountability Lab, stressed the need for empowering citizens, especially youth, to demand accountability and advocate for their rights.

“Citizens, particularly young people, should be empowered to actively participate in demanding accountability and good governance from power holders. Citizens should be educated about their rights and how they can demand them from power holders,” he said.

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