Chinese company destroys irrigation schemes

A firm owned by a Chinese company, Galechka Investments, has been accused of destroying the famous Madzimudhaka River in Shurugwi through alluvial mining of gold.

EMA’s Timothy Nyoka stands on debris inside the river.
EMA’s Timothy Nyoka stands on debris inside the river.

That waterway feeds into Mutirikwe River, which is also a tributary of Runde River that runs through Masvingo province. Over the years the river has been a busy base for irrigation schemes located on its banks up to Zvishavane district. The surrounding communities, mostly small-scale farmers, use it as a source of drinking water for their livestock.

A recent visit by The Zimbabwean to the area, 18 km east of Shurugwi, discovered that Galechka Investments has literally destroyed the Madzimudhaka through the use of heavy machinery in search of alluvial gold. It was also discovered that the firm has also deliberately blocked the flow of the river in order to easily conduct the illegal mining. Downstream irrigation schemes are suffering the consequences.


Taking advantage of the blockage, other local illegal gold panners have descended on the river -worsening the impact and causing more land degradation.

Killien Chipeta, a farmer near the site, said the situation had greatly affected the community. “The water in the river is now contaminated with chemicals which the Chinese have been using. This means that it is no longer safe for our livestock to consume the water.

“The firm’s operations are taking place on a stretch of about six kilometres, so many families have been affected. On top of that, the firm also leaves open deep gullies, which are severely injuring out livestock,” he said.

Another villager, Trymore Nguni, revealed that company officials had been bulling the surrounding villagers to an extent where they use them to guard their mining machinery like excavators at their homes by force.

Trymore Nguni stands in front of a machine he was forced to guard at his home by the Chinese.
Trymore Nguni stands in front of a machine he was forced to guard at his home by the Chinese.

The Environmental Management Agency’s Ecosystem Protection officer, Phanuel Mangisi, said his organization had made efforts to put an end to the illegal activities.

15 arrested

“What is on record is that the Chinese company did not have a single document authorizing its activities from day one. On top of that, it is now an open secret that all alluvial mining activities have been restricted to the state and outlawed on any private companies. This means the Chinese had no right to start those operations,” said Mangisi.

He added that when EMA got complaints from farmers that water-flow from the river had been blocked by the Chinese and was affecting irrigation schemes downstream, they, together with the police, arrested about 15 employees of the firm.

“We also issued the firm with tickets amounting to about $6,000 but the challenge has been that the Chinese managers of that firm ran away and until now they have not been located. They left their machinery at homes of nearby villagers but we cannot locate them. We want them to come back and rehabilitate the area,” added Mangisi.

Timothy Nyoka, EMA’s provincial spokesperson, highlighted that the impact on the environment in general caused by the illegal mining activities would be difficult to amend.

“We are in the process of engaging private companies to come and rehabilitate the area so that when the rainy season comes, water can resume flowing in the river. But the biggest challenge is resources. The degradation is being worsened by the illegal local gold panners who at night descend on the area in search of the gold,” said Nyoka.

Several Chinese companies have been accused on numerous occasions of flouting various regulations and demands of the law. Locals whom they employ have consistently complained of poor wages, long working hours and hard conditions.

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