A Zimbabwe government body, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), which deals with environmental issues, has shutdown one of the country’s largest cement manufacturing companies for causing water pollution.
The Chinese-owned cement giant, Sino-Zimbabwe, which is situated in the town of Gweru about 200 kilometers north-east of Bulawayo, was ordered to close by EMA and this has seen hundreds of workers losing their jobs.
EMA director, Phillip Chikwende Manyaza, told a state-owned daily on Thursday that they ordered the closure of the cement manufacturing company after receiving several complaints of serious pollution of the community’s water sources, flora and fauna threatening human and livestock lives.
“We served Sino-Zimbabwe with a Cease Operations order on 22 July in terms of the Environmental Management Act after carrying out an inspection of their plant.”
“The inspection was carried out after receiving several complaints from the local communities, mainly resettled farmers. The amount of cement dust emissions from the factory chimneys into the atmosphere was higher than normal,” said Manyaza.
Manyaza said the cement company was discharging cement dust and raw sewage directly into a stream that fed Gweru River causing serious water pollution.
He said the company was also found guilty of discharging used oil into the environment causing serious pollution.
“The problem with used oil is that it has heavy metals like lead, carbinium and chromium. These are heavy metals that are toxic and highly poisonous. They impact negatively on human and livestock health and other living organisms,” said the EMA director.
Sino-Zimbabwe started operating on commercial basis in 2001 after its completion in December 2000 with a total cost of US $51 million.
The company releases 30 haulage trucks per week, mostly to the DRC and Zambia, laden with cement.
Trade between China and Zimbabwe increased since 2000 when President Robert Mugabe’s regime promoted an aggressive “Look East” policy premised on the need to find new trading partners and markets after traditional investors from Western nations turned against Harare in protest over the regime ‘s human rights abuses, repression against political opponents and violent land-grab programmes.
China has now become the second largest trade partner of Zimbabwe, after South Africa. The Asian country is also the biggest tobacco buyer from Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe and China have cooperated in areas of agriculture technology, information and communication technology, tourism and manufacturing.
Recently, China provided more than 1,000 human resources training opportunities for Zimbabwe and has since opened a Chinese language centre at the University of Zimbabwe.