Government sources said Bulawayo provincial governor Cain Mathema would have to move from his Gwayi Ranch while his Matabeleland North counterpart Sithokozile Mathuthu would be forced off her Dete Valley farm.
Apart from the two whose farms are in the wildlife-rich areas, businesspeople and other Zanu PF officials were also likely to be evicted when government starts the coal mining project.
Mathema’s Gwayi Ranch measures 4 600 hectares while Mathuthu’s property is 2 800 hectares, which they received under the controversial land reform programme.
Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that plans were underway for the government to evict the governors before the end of next year.
“Mathema, Mathuthu and other businessmen with close Zanu PF links are likely to lose out from their farms as the government is readying for coal mining,” said the source.
The farms are close to Hwange, a coal mining town. Other coal deposits were discovered near the Gwayi-Shangani Dam, whose completion has been delayed due to lack of funding.
Observers said the coal mining project could avail the much-needed resources for the construction of the dam expected to bring a permanent solution to Matabeleland and Bulawayo’s perennial water problems.
Although Mathema declined that he would be moved from Gwayi Ranch, Mathuthu confirmed that coal deposits were discovered and that she could be forced off her farm.
Mathuthu said her province desperately needed serious investment through coal mining and she would be the first to vacate her Dete Valley farm once mining starts.
“If mining of coal starts, we will be moving; we should understand that mining takes precedence to all other activities because the province and the country at large need the money,” she said.
Mathuthu, however, insisted that the proceeds from the coal mining should benefit local communities.
“We have lost in many areas where resources are plundered. As Matabeleland leadership we told the government that if the mining of coal starts, the proceeds should be ploughed back,” she said.
But Mathema down-played the impending evictions saying coal was discovered in Matabeleland North “a million years ago”.
He said: “I haven’t heard about the evictions, its news to me. But there is nothing new about the coal deposits, it’s known that coal is everywhere in the province, so why do you think we will be evicted?”
Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu declined to comment last week saying he was on annual leave.
“I can’t comment now, I am on leave and I don’t know who is the acting minister,” he said.
However, President Robert Mugabe a fortnight ago told his Zanu PF central committee that government had received a lot of applications from whites who wanted to go into coal mining in Matabeleland North.
He said he met the applicants recently, who explained to him that coal mining was very lucrative and a good investment
“I wondered why they wanted to go into coal, that dark, dusty mineral, until they indicated, without hesitation, that for the next 10 years, coal is where all the money will be,” Mugabe said,
“I asked myself how many of our own people have this knowledge, indeed, how many of our indigenous entrepreneurs are willing to venture into such enterprises.”