Untold story of Manhize and the fallen graves

By Branton Matondo
Villagers from Manhize, a rural settlement range within the Mashonaland East have heightened cries on the demolition of graveyards by Chinese driven mining firm Dinson Iron and Steel Company (DISCO) following the construction of a boundary wall. 
Dinson Iron and Steel Company (DISCO) is a mining firm operating under Tsingshan Holdings Group since the genesis of 2020 in Chirumhanzu (Midlands) and Chikomba East (Mashonaland East). 
Reports indicate that the establishment of structures to extract iron ore in the region near Manhize Range and Mushenjere village has led to the destruction of graves. 
The company, which according to villagers only compensated USD$1900 to affected families within the pegged mining proximity desecrated graves to clear up land and line up a leveled boundaries to mark the mines’ yard. 
George Gwere (72) told Newsdigest that social custodians (village heads) who according to tradition are supposed to save the integrity of the departed in conjunction with other social custodians have not responded to the hot issue.
 “Society leaders (madzishe) and social custodians (councilors, members of parliament) are quiet as if nothing is happening. One of the leaders lives hardly 100 meters from where the graves are but they are quiet. We now believe that they are benefiting from the Chinese at the expense of us and our departed loved ones.”
In line with section 16 of Zimbabwe’s constitution, graveyard desecration is an offense. 
Chapter 3 Section 16 sub section 3 indicates ” the State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must promote and preserve cultural values and practices which enhance the dignity, well-being and equality of Zimbabweans.” 
According to section 110 and 111 of the Criminal Law6(Codification and Reform) Chapter 9:23 graveyard impiety is an offense.
 Findings by Center for Research Development (CRD) indicate that since 2021, 101 families from Mushenjere village have since lost farming and grazing land to accelerated DISCO mining developments. 
“They have continued to watch in horror the destruction of their land by DISCO who are setting up of water pipelines, power plants and other infrastructure which has put the deceased in misery. The clearing of their land by the Chinese is also destroying orchards and graveyards of their departed,” read the report. 
“At the moment we only know of two families that relocated their loved ones from the affected graveyards to a new site. Other than that nothing has been done to respect the departed,” said Sesedza Chida (62), a villager from Manhize.
 An attempt to contact DISCO Public Relations Manager Mr Joseph Shoko was fruitless till time of publishing as his contact was unreachable. 
Traditionalist David Mutambirwa said burial sites are sacred and the context of foreigners coming in and destroying graveyards is not conversant with our culture. 
“The adulteration and destruction of burial sites should be condemned with the contempt it deserves.  In our culture, graves are sacred and should be respected. When a development initiative is to take place. Social custodians, such as traditional leadership, and spirit mediums should be consulted and make rituals to appease the spirit of the dead before any development activity commences.
The tragedy in the context of Manhize and mines in Zimbabwe is that foreigners who come to mine in the country are not conversant with our culture and as a result they turn to disregard the indigenous knowledge systems which are the neck born of our culture.”He added,” If these processes are not followed, misfortunes, capabilities or mishaps may occur.   Recommendation-The affected communities should petition all the relevant stakeholders among them, social custodians, local development partners, district coordinator and ministry of mines.”
DISCO is extracting iron ore in Manhize Range which falls under Mashonaland East whilst setting up a processing and a power plant in Mushenjere and Kwaedza villages of Nyikavanhu traditional land of ward 15 in Chirumanzi District of Midlands Province.
During 2022, DISCO fast tracked relocation of 6 families to Singleton farm near Chivhu without memorandum of agreement on issues of compensation and secured livelihoods on relocated land. 
14 more families were moved from Mushenjere and Kwaedza villages to a paddock area reserved for animal grazing at Rusununguko farm between November and December 2022 without due process.

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