The Boterekwa escarpment in Shurugwi, once celebrated for its breathtaking beauty, now bears the scars of exploitation. This transformation is largely attributed to the activities of Collins Mnangagwa, the twin son of Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, known locally as Takunda. As a senior partner and chairperson of Chengxi Mining (Pvt) Ltd, a company with Chinese origins, Collins has been at the forefront of extensive gold mining operations that have drastically altered the landscape.

Three years of investigative reporting by The NewsHawks has exposed the depth of the devastation in Boterekwa, where the natural environment suffers under the weight of unchecked industrial ambition. The once-pristine escarpment, known as Wolfshall Pass, has been reduced to a desolate expanse. The area’s rugged hills, verdant valleys, and tranquil streams are now marred by open-pit mines and trenches, stripped of lush vegetation and exposed to harsh elements.

The air hangs heavy with the acrid smell of chemicals like cyanide, and the constant clamor of machinery disrupts what was once a peaceful sanctuary. The mining has not only reshaped the physical contours of the landscape but has also polluted water bodies, turning crystal clear waters during the rainy season into murky, contaminated flows.

Collins Mnangagwa’s ascension to wealth and influence is stark against the backdrop of his earlier life struggles before his father’s ascent to presidency through a coup in 2017. Now residing in a lavish mansion in Hellensville, Harare, his lifestyle starkly contrasts with the environmental and social upheaval his mining ventures have caused. Frequent trips to China for business dealings underline his profitable exploits, derived from the very soil that suffers under his machines.

The local community and the broader Zimbabwean populace bear the brunt of this exploitation. Not only has the environment been ravaged, but the socio-economic impacts are profound. Illegal gold panning activities further exacerbate the situation, adding to the chaos unleashed by the larger-scale mining operations. The destruction has sparked significant public outcry, with accusations of complicity reaching as high as President Mnangagwa himself, who regularly travels through the affected area.

Political entanglements deepen the controversy, as Zanu PF, the ruling party, has been implicated as a beneficiary of Chengxi’s operations. The mining company has curried favor by donating offices and extending various perks to local chiefs, effectively muffling potential dissent. High-profile figures, including Midlands minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Owen “Mudha” Ncube, have publicly supported Collins, suggesting a deep intertwining of political and commercial interests.

Despite its destructive impact, the mining at Boterekwa continues, shielded by powerful alliances. Environmental regulations are flouted openly; for instance, despite being greenlit by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) for shaft mining, the operations expanded into unauthorized open cast mining. The consequences are dire, with irreversible damage to the local ecosystem and continuous pollution of essential water resources.

The situation in Boterekwa is a microcosm of a larger issue faced by many regions in Zimbabwe, where natural riches are plundered with little regard for environmental or social consequences. Calls for government intervention have grown louder, with figures like Chief Nhema advocating for stricter oversight of mining practices. However, with mining activities deeply linked to the political elite, meaningful change remains elusive.

As Collins Mnangagwa continues to profit, the landscape of Boterekwa, once a symbol of natural beauty, now serves as a stark reminder of the costs of human greed and environmental neglect. The future of this area hangs in the balance, with its fate closely tied to the whims of those who view its resources as merely stepping stones to personal enrichment.

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