MUTARE – Tour operators in Chimanimani have engaged lawyers to force Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to release a report on investigations into illegal gold mining activities in Chimanimani Mountains.
The gold mining activities are allegedly being supervised by senior ZimParks rangers.
The tour operators who forced the investigations are worried that ZimParks are deliberately withholding the findings, hence their demand for the release of the report under Access of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) (Chapter 10:27) and the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
The tour operators were represented by Collin Sibanda, a tour operator who wrote a letter to the director general of ZimParks, Fulton Mangwanya through Passmore Nyakureba of Maunga, Maanda and Associates.
The letter was dated October 23.
“We are advised by our client that on the 3rd of July 2017 they reported to you some of your officers stationed at the Park who were leading illegal gold mining syndicates in the Park.
“Following which several meetings and exchanges took place involving Parks, our client in his capacity as an operator in the tourism sector, Environmental Management Agency (Ema), the Rural District Council and relevant stakeholders. This resulted in the investigation mentioned above,” Nyakureba wrote.
Nyakureba said despite Sibanda being the informant and a complainant in the matter, he was omitted from the team that made the investigation visit to the area.
He said they only learnt of the investigation report upon making follow up calls to senior Parks officials.
Nyakureba said his client was made to believe that the investigative visit was made to the area on August 3 by a committee that was led by ZimParks board member, one D Mabika and their report has been ready since August 14.
Nyakureba said ZimParks was compelled under Aippa to respond within 30 days after which they would approach the courts to force the release of the report.
“We understand that a decision on a request for information under Aippa should be made within 30 working days of receiving the request.
“In the event that you fail to act on the request within the time provided by law, our strict instructions are to approach the courts of law and apply for an order of court compelling you to do so,” Nyakureba said in the letter.
He said there were concerns the illegal activities were threatening the area’s biodiversity, harming the environment and would also affect the tourism sector.