via Chiadzwa villagers trapped in terror – NewsDay Zimbabwe April 9, 2016
WHEN the government introduced organised diamond mining activities in Marange and drove out all artisanal miners, who had invaded the area in 2008, local villagers thought they were going to benefit and see Chiadzwa transformed into a modern town.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth and Indigenisation visited Chiadzwa last week to carry out investigations on how community share ownership trusts (CSOTs) and the Marange-Zimunya community in Chiadzwa were benefiting from the gems, but all they heard were tales of human rights abuses and impoverishment.
Mining companies Anjin, Marange Diamond Resources, Mbada Diamonds and Jianan have since had their operations stopped by government, which is in the process of consolidating the enterprises.
“When the Marange-Zimunya CSOT was launched, and when President Robert Mugabe was handed a $1,5 million dummy cheque by mining companies in Chiadzwa, I was there, but what is now coming out is that the $50 million, which is supposed to be paid by mining companies was a deal and not a business agreement,” Godwin Nemasasi, an engineer, said.
“If it was a business deal, it was going to bring about development in Chiadzwa. If you look at the buildings here, one can easily tell that they were constructed in such a manner that one day they would be abandoned after the exhaustion of diamond resources.”
He said they expected the mining companies to construct tarred roads and vibrant townships, as was the case in Zvishavane, where Mimosa operated.
“If you compare asbestos, platinum and diamonds, it is obvious diamonds fetch more money, but this is not reflecting in terms of the type of infrastructural investment that is next to nil in Chiadzwa,” he said.
Nemasasi told the committee that a lot of people had died in the mining area, lost their wealth, and were terrorised when organised mining resumed to the extent that some were now destitute.
Malvern Mudiwa of Marange Development Trust said locals were now “prisoners”, whose movements were constrained by the tight security in Marange.
“We are worse off than before. Our rivers are now polluted and diamond mining has brought more problems than before.
Why doesn’t government force the diamond mining companies to start cleaning the rivers so that we begin to breed fish? Is consolidation going to change the behaviour of companies mining in Chiadzwa?” he queried.
“Relocation was done without transparency and when companies were closed, some workers were owed 12 months’ salaries. They went away destitute and now we do not know if the consolidated company is going to pay the arrears.
We do not have good schools and clinics, and we are exposed to dust from blasting and water pollution.”
The MPs heard about human rights abuses by security personnel in Chiadzwa, where people had dogs set on them allegedly by soldiers, police or diamond company security guards, while fetching water or enjoying their beer at shopping centres.
Tichafa Mutisi of Marange said their cultural rights were also severely affected and bemoaned the mining companies’ failure to follow traditional protocol of consulting traditional leaders before setting up their businesses.
“We are not here to protect politicians. What is wrong is wrong. Politicians are overriding traditional leaders when making decisions with the mining companies. People now hate chiefs because the local chief here, Gilbert Marange, has to move around with security guards because people are not happy. They think the chiefs are sellouts,” he said.
Kudakwashe Chikata said villagers wanted to see a win-win situation, such that when the precious minerals were exhausted, valuable infrastructure such as “colleges for diamond cutting and polishing, and state-of-the-art buildings and roads” would remain.
He said the manner in which bodies of their ancestors were exhumed during relocation left families traumatised, adding even staff of the diamond mining companies, who were made to exhume the bodies were forced to do so without protective clothing.
“The coffins provided were of very poor quality. The people who were doing the exhumation job were not given protective clothing and as a result they did not do a good job. The diamond mining companies should have hired professional undertakers to do the exhumations so that the affected families would remain at peace that the graves of their dead were properly relocated,” Chikata said.
Mbada Diamonds said it did a lot of corporate social responsibility work in Chiadzwa, including building state-of-the-art houses and schools for relocated families, adding they would continue to assist the communities with training and farming inputs.
“Mbada Diamonds distributes food to over 7 000 families in Marange and relocated families to Arda Transau on a quarterly basis. We provide clean water to communities through extensive borehole drilling programmes, provide scholarships and material assistance to academically-gifted and underprivileged children in Zimbabwe,” Mbada corporate executive, George Manyaya told the MPs.
For the past five years, Mbada contributed over $35 million towards corporate social responsibility programmes, mostly for the benefit of villagers in the diamond mining areas.
Anjin deputy general manager, Shingi Manyeruke said it was difficult to satisfy people’s expectations, but the company had done its best.
“Anjin is the only mining company that set up a tarred road in Chiadzwa. We even brought Chinese doctors to deal with cataracts and other health issues and spent $14 million. In the past two years, the company accumulated debts of which it is struggling to clear because of operational issues,” he said.
According to statistics given to the committee by Mutare provincial administrator, Fungai Mbetsa, to date only 751 families have been relocated, with Anjin having moved 474, Mbada 100, DMC 30, Marange Resources 160, and Jinan Investments 31.
“The affected area covers 31 villages in Chiadzwa and we established that 4 321 households will be affected in the long-term if the whole area is to be mined. About 10 villages needed immediate relocation, but now Mutare has run out of space and we might have to find another place to relocate affected villagers,” Mbetsa said.