Pedzisai “Scott” Sakupwanya, an ally of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, allegedly performed customary rituals to placate the ghosts of many artisanal miners who died at his Redwing gold mine in Penhalonga, Manicaland province.
The ritual ceremony was funded by Sakupwanya’s business, Better Brands, and took place at the mine on Sunday.
At the ceremony, a catering company was hired to provide food for hundreds of attendees, including traditional leaders, prominent Zanu PF members, and artisanal miners. A truckload of traditional beer that had been brewed two weeks prior was consumed at the event, NewsDay reports.
The mine was just given permission by the government to begin operations after the Environmental Management Agency closed it down in January of this year due to safety concerns.
Sakupwanya is a key Zanu PF member and is expected to finance the ruling party’s election campaign this year.
He has also been previously pictured with President Emmerson Mnangagwa at State House.
Civic groups from Manicaland claimed that more than 100 artisanal miners have died at Redwing Mine since 2020, but NewsDay could not independently verify the claims.
Since the mine reopened in March, there have been reports of new deaths which reportedly prompted Sakupwanya to initiate the Sunday cleansing ceremony following advice from the area’s traditional leadership.
“Yes, we had a traditional ceremony for various reasons. There were traditional leaders and we were also celebrating the coming in of a new chief, (but) we were cleansing the area because of the deaths that have been recorded at the mine. It’s obvious that the company financed the ceremony because they are the ones who are operating at the mine,” he said.
Mugadza applauded Better Brands for the initiative.
Better Brands mine manager Alexio Guyo also confirmed the ceremony, but directed all questions about the event to the company’s general manager Cuthbert Chitima.
“I was not there, l am in Beatrice, but you can get in touch with Cuthbert Chitima,” he said.
Chitima’s phone was not being answered yesterday.
Penhalonga Youth Development Trust director Clinton Masanga said Better Brands conducted the rituals using traditional snuff and some rice that was sprinkled in the mineshafts to supposedly appease the spirits of departed artisanal miners.
“It was a traditional and ritual ceremony done at once. Traditional snuff and some grains of rice were thrown in the claims where some artisanal miners reportedly died,” Masanga said.
“The fact that they did the traditional ceremony or rituals is clear indication that they are aware of the deaths that have occurred at the mine.”
Masanga, however, said it was difficult to determine whether Redwing Mine had satisfied the safety demands made by Ema.
“However, it is important to note that traditional ceremonies and mining operations should not compromise safety measures and environmental regulations. The poor management of the mine by Better Brands Mining Company is a cause for concern and it is essential that the company improves (workers’ safety at the mine),” he said.
Masanga added: “If the traditional ceremony is conducted (and the mining company) violates the restrictions set by Ema, it could potentially lead to negative consequences such as harm to the environment or danger to the workers.”
Centre for Research and Development director James Mupfumi, who has in the past been vocal over mine deaths in Penhalonga, weighed in saying conducting a traditional ceremony was not enough to guarantee miners’ safety.
“I think the company was seeking to address the issue of mine deaths which have not stopped even after the company was closed,” he said.