According to reports, Pedzisai Scott Sakupwanya, an ally of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and owner of Better Brands, is secretly mining at Redwing Mine in Penhalonga, Manicaland province. This is despite the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) closing the mine in January following fatal accidents involving artisanal miners.
In recent days, two deaths have been reported in Penhalonga, one of them at Redwing Mine. The deceased individuals have been identified as Eubret Pedro (37) and Kelvin Chapeta (36), as confirmed by Manicaland provincial police spokesperson Inspector Nobert Muzondo.
“On Friday at around 9pm, Eubret Pedro was in the company of his colleague Munashe Nyagura at Zaina Mine Shaft at Redwing Mine. Pedro went inside a 15-metre deep mine. His colleague became suspicious when Pedro took long to come out of the mine. Nyagura reported to the Redwing Mine security, who reported the matter to police in Penhalonga, who then retrieved the deceased’s body,” Muzondo said.
“He had no visible marks. Maybe he suffocated or inhaled some gases. We have another sudden death which occurred on Sunday (March 5, 2023) of an illegal miner Kelvin Chapeta at Premier Central, Old Mutare in Penhalonga who was trapped in a mine shaft.”
However, Premier Central where Chapeta died is not in the Redwing Mine premises.
On reports of secret mining activities by Better Brands, Muzondo said: “We will make some investigations to find out whether it’s true or false, but ask them about it. We can’t comment on behalf of the company.”
EMA was forced to close the mine after pressure from civic society groups such as Centre for Research and Development (CRD), and Ziva Community Empowerment Trust who claimed that since 2020, over 100 deaths were recorded at the mine.
EMA Manicaland provincial boss Kingstone Chitotombe yesterday said the suspension was still in force.
“The suspension of Better Brands mining in Penhalonga is still in full force. We suspended them on issues to do with mining safety and regulations and environmental degradation,” he said.
Former Mutasa South constituency legislator Regai Tsunga (Citizens Coalition for Change) confirmed that Better Brands was involved in secret mining at Redwing Mine. “EMA advised Better Brands to stop its mining operations over numerous deaths, but I have done my investigations and it seems they are mining unofficially. Just a few days ago, there were reported deaths, and there is an attempt by the company to suppress information on on-going mining operations. The safety of miners is not being considered,” Tsunga said.
Mutasa South MP Misheck Mugadza (Zanu-PF) confirmed the death of the miner at Redwing Mine.
“I know of the death of Eubret Pedro, and he is an ordinary miner. He does not mine for Better Brands. I bought a coffin for him. What I have gathered is that there are some illegal miners who are sneaking into the mine during the night and they start mining. EMA should allow mining activities to resume because the company is complying,” Mugadza said.
Redwing Mine manager Alexio Guyo yesterday refused to respond to questions from NewsDay.
“Let them write what they want and they will get tired. Currently, I have officials from the Ministry of Mines and EMA. My boss Scott Sakupwanya said write what you want,” he said.
Guyo alleged that reports that they were mining clandestinely were sponsored by unnamed politicians in connivance with some civic groups.
“It’s unfortunate that we have people who have been fighting us. This is politically motivated from the opposition,” Guyo said.
Better Brands was recently granted a licence by government to build Zimbabwe’s second gold refinery in Bulawayo.
Sakupwanya is a key Zanu-PF member and is expected to help finance the ruling party’s election campaign ahead of polls expected in August.
He has also been previously pictured with Mnangagwa at State House.
CRD director James Mupfumi said: “The culture of impunity orchestrated by greedy and political supremacy has replaced constitutionalism in Zimbabwe. Government is turning a blind eye to the continued deaths at Redwing because elements in the State security system and political elite are benefiting from gold plunder at Redwing Mine. To them, murder of desperate citizens by Better Brands’ dangerous mining pits doesn’t matter.”