VILLAGERS in Marange are demanding the withdrawal of the recently deployed state security agents whom they accuse of gross human rights violations, including torture.
A highly secretive security indaba was held in Harare last week where Marange villagers, civil society organisations (CSOs) and other stakeholders raised concern over the alleged reign of terror and renewed acts of human rights abuses.
The meeting was attended by Mines and Mining Development minister Winstone Chitando, state security agents, Marange diamond mining companies among other stakeholders.
Sources said chief executive officer of Chiadzwa Community Ownership Trust led by Hardwork Mukwada represented the villagers.
Chitando was petitioned by the Chiadzwa villagers to restore sanity in the area during the meeting.
Mukwada refused to comment on the outcome of the meeting saying this would jeopardise their negotiations.
“It was a closed door meeting and it is not proper for me to discuss what was discussed in the meeting. l don’t want to discuss what happened in the meeting because this will jeopardise what we discussed in the meeting,” Mukwada said.
“I am not brushing you aside but I am leading an engagement with some authorities and communities so please don’t publish it.”
Sources told this publication yesterday that Mukwada and other CSOs widely spoke about the sour relationship between communities and state security agents recently deployed to the area.
“Mukwada also pointed to the arrogance of the base commander of the soldiers (name withheld) who have refused to engage with the traditional leaders upon request,” a source said.
“He also spoke about the issue of security checkpoints where villagers are being asked to pay cash and that they solicit cash from passers-by and commuter omnibuses.”.
Newman Chiadzwa of Chiadzwa Development Community Trust (CDTT) also confirmed the meeting and human rights’ abuses.
“Villagers are living in fear of the rogue soldiers and police officers deployed in Chiadzwa. It is our hope that after this meeting authorities will call these people to order,” Chiadzwa said.
Other sources said Chitando spoke briefly during the meeting before calling for continuous engagement with various parties, including villagers.
“The minister of Mines and Mining Development spoke briefly about the importance of working together. He pledged to continuously call for the same engagement meetings in the very near future.”
Chitando was not answering his mobile phone last week.
Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) chief executive Mark Mabhudhu said he was driving when contacted for comment on Friday. He was, however, later not picking up calls on his mobile phone.
Zimbabwe National Armys spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Alphios Makotore on Friday said he was not aware of the involvement of soldiers in rights’ abuses in Marange.
National police spokesperson assistant inspector Paul Nyathi said he never received a report over the meeting.
Diamonds were discovered in Marange in 2006, but more than a decade after formal mining started, thousands of people in the vicinity of diamond fields are living miserably, as fields have become an outpost of human rights violations, according to various reports.
The military first seized control of the diamond fields after allegedly killing more than 200 people in Chiadzwa in late October 2008.