ODZI: Villagers and school children here said they were the biggest losers in the ‘diamonds deal’ after former miners constructed sub-standard houses for relocated families which are cracking, barely a few years after occupation.
Bitter villagers said this to mines minister, Walter Chidhakwa, who toured Arda Transau in Odzi recently. Hundreds of families were relocated to Arda Transau to pave way for the mining of gems by various companies in Marange in 2011.
One of the conditions for the companies to mine was to first construct houses and social amenities such as schools and clinics for the relocated families as well as paying a modest compensation so that families could start their lives again.
Chidhakwa’s visit to Transau came as government was planning the relocation of remaining villagers following the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) take over at Chiadzwa.
ZCDC took over after government cancelled permits for the mining firms citing lack of transparency in remittance of dividends with some families still stranded in the Chiadzwa diamond fields without access to social amenities and exposed to dust and noise pollution.
It is reported that over 500 households are still stranded in the Diamond Mining Company (DMC) concession.
During his tour, Chidhakwa was told that a lot still needed to be done in terms of improving the welfare of displaced villagers as most houses are evidently unfit for human habitation.
Villagers openly told the minister that they feared for their lives and were opting to sleep elsewhere instead of using houses built by diamond firms. Some villagers said the state of their houses was so bad that they were being forced to finance repairs from their meagre resources.
Most of the houses which Mbada said cost about $50 000 each to construct, have three bedrooms, a lounge and a kitchen but without electricity.
Some school kids in the area complained bitterly, saying they were walking long distances to Anjin compound for lessons and begged the minister to “do something urgently”.
“Minister, the school is too far away. We walk long distances to Anjin compound for school. Do something for us here,” said one of the pupils.
Chidhakwa said all the companies that were contracted to build the houses were known and they should be held accountable since they were all paid to carry out their duties.
“ZCDC will look through the quality of work which was done by contractors. They will check whether the houses were constructed to specifications or not.
“We will do our best to meet the expectations of the relocated families,” said Chidhakwa. The minister said ZCDC was going to engage the contractors to chat the way forward and probably request them to sort out the “mess”.
“We are not there just to provide accommodation to these people but to also make sure they are adequately compensated,” he added.
Chidhakwa said there was no point in ZCDC taking over the operations and fail to meet the agreements reached by former companies.