Pedzisai Scott Sakupwanya, a dealer considered close to the first family, has been kicked out of a gold mining venture in Penhalonga, Manicaland province.
This comes hardly two months after George Charamba, the presidential spokesperson, warned shady businesspeople against abusing President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s name for personal gain.
Sakupwanya’s Better Brands company had been allocated 132 gold claims at Redwing Ming Company (RMC) under hazy circumstances.
Rival miners, the surrounding community and local advocacy groups were accusing Sakupwanya of having become the law unto himself by terrrorising competitors and defying the police for causing extensive environmental damage at Redwing.
They reported that the gold miner claimed that the mining concessions he was running in Penhalonga belonged to President Mnangagwa.
Sakupwanya is a prominent member of the Affirmative Action Group, which is considered an elitist club of ruling Zanu PF sympathisers disguised as beneficiaries of black empowerment.
He is reportedly planning to run as a Zanu PF municipal candidate at the 2023 elections and has often been seen in the company of Mnangagwa’s sons.
In early October, Information for Development Trust (IDT), working in collaboration with The Standard newspaper, reached out to Charamba over Sakupwanya’s alleged abuse of the president’ name and he threatened that namedroppers would “rot in jail”.
“There has been a serious level of name-dropping by people who are trying to ride rough-shod over the law in the name of the leadership. We take a very dim view of such personalities and in the event that we catch up with them, those guys will rot in jail.”
He continued: “Tell that Sakupwanya that, really, he must look at his articles of association and see if the president is a shareholder (in Betterbrands).”
A follow-up by Grazers News, the IDT online publication, established that the caretaker management at Redwing, which is under a corporate rescue plan, had resolved to stop Better Brands from operating at the gold fields.
In a letter dated 29 November 2021 that was addressed to Better Brands, Knowledge Hofisi, the Redwing interim corporate rescue manager, said he had replaced Sakupwanya;s company.
Duatlet Investments is now set to partner Redwing, a subsidiary of Metallon Corporation that is domiciled in the UK.
Part of the letter reads: “Pursuant to our memorandum of 25 November 2021, we wish to advise that Redwing Mining Company (Private) Limited has concluded a joint venture mining agreement with Duatlet Investments today on 29 November 2021.”
“Accordingly, any and all mining activities that are being carried out by Better Brands Mining Company have been suspended and suppressed by the new arrangement and should therefore stop by end of business today. In other words they should immediately vacate RMC premises.”
Hofisi, who was not responding to calls by Grazers News, indicated in the letter that he would inform Better Brands Mining Company’s lawyers of the new development.
The local community also accused Sakupwanya of fuelling criminal cases in the area after he hired artisanal miners from Kwekwe to boost his operations.
The artisanal miners, commonly known as Mashurugwi, allegedly beat up rivals and went on a stealing spree in the area.
Previous investigations showed that Better Brands’ operations were in violation of Statutory Instrument (SI) 258 of 2018 Environmental Management (Control of Alluvial Mining) (Amendment) Regulations, which outlaws setting up washing plants, ore stockpiles, slime dams or mining ponds within 500 meters from river banks.
Better Brands set hammer mills on the bank of the nearby Mutare River.
James Mupfumi, the head of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD) has in the past protested continued mining operations by Better Brands, saying Sakupwanya’s company was partly to blame for some 500 open pits that had been dug in the area and not reclaimed.
In an interview with Grazers News, he also accused Better Brands of poisoning the environment with cyanide and mercury, whose use was effectively banned by the Zimbabwean government early this year.
The CRD has accused Better Brands of operating 129 illegal hammer mills and six cynidation sites to process gold at Redwing.
While welcoming the removal of Better Brands from the RMC gold fields, Mupfumi expressed dismay that Hofisi was recycling gold players, saying that did not guarantee a return to normalcy in Penhalonga.
“This is just an arrangement to suit the interests of the investors rather than address the concerns of workers, good maintenance of the environment through best mining methods and concerns of residents who desire peace,” he said.
“We are yet to see how viable the new arrangement will be to the community but from what we are gathering, it will just be a continuation of the old order we have been complaining about,” added Mupfumi.