A Catholic Brazilian Franciscan Brother, Rodrigo Peret, of the Pastoral Land Commission of Uberlândia together with twenty others belonging to a group of international mining activists were at the weekend, remanded in custody for a day. They were released and escorted to the airport by that country’s authorities after each paid a fine of US$100 to the Mutare Magistrates’ court.
Speaking to Vatican Radio’s Brazilian Service about their remand in custody, Bro. Peret expressed appreciation to diplomats, local lawyers and ecclesiastical authorities for helping with their release.
Local Zimbabwean newspapers NewsdzeZimbabwe Online and the Sunday Mail Online said twenty-one persons, led by renowned Zimbabwean human rights activist, Farai Maguwu, in the company of two drivers trespassed into Zimbabwe’s Chiadzwa diamond fields.
The mining activists were arrested in the Mukwada area. According to the newspapers, “A Mutare magistrate, Lazarus Murendo ordered 22 of them — minus the two drivers — to pay US$100 each or spend a week in prison. They are said to have all pleaded guilty to contravening Section 4(6), as read with Section 4(2), of the Protected Areas and Places Act (Chapter 11:12) which bars entering protected areas without a permit.”
Farai Maguwu, arrested with the international activists has in the past been recognised by Human Rights Watch for putting his life on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others. He has previously conducted extensive research documenting abuses taking place at Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields.
Of the twenty-four arrested, at the weekend, twenty-one are citizens of Brazil, Britain, Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, and Zambia. They were in Zimbabwe to express solidarity with locals who face forced displacement from ancestral lands to make way for mining. The mining proceeds are also never used to develop or benefit displaced communities. Before their arrest, the mining activists participated in a local community meeting.
Commenting on his Zimbabwe experience, on his way back to Brazil, Bro. Peret urged listeners of Vatican Radio to pray and show some kind of solidarity and support Zimbabwean families and other citizens of Africa who are victims of displacement and environmental destruction due to the impact of reckless mining mostly by international companies supported by various African governments.
"The people (of Zimbabwe and Africa) are in misery because of the destruction of their environment. We all have a responsibility to take care of our common home (the earth), " Bro. Peret told Vatican Radio.
Members of the of internationally connected network, Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA), advocate for environmental justice and miners’ rights.
The mining activists arrested at the weekend, in Zimbabwe, include Decastro Amedee Peret Rodrigo, (62), Rhiain Moses (21), Railwedzha Maena Thabo (31), Bohale Milicent Busisiwe (32), Tembo Roida Musonda (60), Susan Chilala (43), , Docus Kapwaya (67), Chance Mashudu (49), Pinky Langa (28), Motloung Sabatini (27), Hubert Mduduzi Mbokane (45), Dunezweni Sekwaneke Dhlamini (48), John Bosco Okwong Ocyer (48), Bongani Tsela (45), Julia Maria Andrade Gomes (36), Viera Dasilva Jarbas (29), Kithel Gladys Mongare(30), Cabangile Monica Dlamini (52), Peace Mathew Hlabane (47), Bernadette Malamba (66) and Nokuthula Thuli Msibi (34). Also arrested, cautioned and discharged were local drivers, Kudakwashe Machawira (26) and Elijah Chomusora (32).
(English Africa Service, Vatican Radio)