Residents of Hwange have petitioned Parliament to investigate the source and threat of underground fires that have become a hazard to local communities.
The fires are affecting Makwika, Number 2 and Number 5, both administered by Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL).
The road connecting Makwika and Madumabisa villages to the town has been closed after it was damaged by the underground fires.
The Greater Whange Residents Trust (GWRT) has written a petition to Parliament seeking its intervention in combating the fires.
The petition was delivered to Parliament on Tuesday, in terms of Section 149 (Right to Petition Parliament) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. It reads in part:
Over the years underground fires have been spewing ash and smoke causing sinkholes that are consuming and damaging the road network and the road that links Makwika Village with Madumabisa Village has since been closed to both pedestrians and vehicular traffic.
The fires are increasing and there are several reported cases of residents and livestock being burnt.
The community is now living in fear and is concerned that the underground fires could spread to residential areas if urgent measures are not taken to mitigate the impact.
The residents want Parliament to investigate the cause of the fires and what mining companies have done to deal with the problem. Reads the petition:
Wherefore petitioners humbly pray that the Parliament of Zimbabwe exercises its constitutional mandate to inquire into the nature and extent of the threat posed to residents, livestock and wildlife in Hwange due to the fires aforementioned.
Parliament should inquire into the cause of the underground fires, and how they can be dealt with, investigate what mining companies have done to deal with underground fires and the extent to which coal mining companies are adhering to sustainable mining that does not pose danger to the community.
In 2021, eight-year-old girl Alisha Sekina Muzvite of Makwika Village (Number 3) suffered serious burns from an underground fire after she fell into a pit while relieving herself at an old dumpsite.
Alisha suffered third-degree burns and was eventually ferried to Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo where she succumbed to her injuries.
Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) hired an international consultant, Group DMT, to investigate the cause of underground fires but the findings of the inquiry have not been made public.