Foreign mining firm brings local misery(01-03-07

By Trust Matsilele
JOHANNESBURG - Thousands of Zimbabweans will lose their livelihoods when a South African mining giant takes over the newly discovered diamond deposits in the eastern part of Zimbabwe.
African Pearl director Chishi Mashile said the company would invest over R720m(US$100m) in

three years. The SA mining giant will be operating in Marange and Buhera districts, according to reports.
The diamond deposits, discovered a couple of months ago in Manicaland province in places such as Bocha, Buhera and Marange, had been helping poor Zimbabweans to feed their families through illegal mining.
Manicaland residents have been making a living, albeit unlicensed, from diamond mining since the discovery of deposits late last year. The takeover by the mining company has come as a shock not only to illegal miners but also to local businessmen who were benefiting from the new-found affluence in the area. Millions of poor people will be affected.
“People have been paying for basic needs by trading diamonds for cash to better-salaried citizens or some diamond dealers in South Africa, and some have been bartering diamonds for basics such as food and soap,” said a depressed diamond trader who identified himself as Ezekiel Shava, originally from Bocha.
Africa Pearl Ltd – a Pan-African and Canadian-based company with a subsidiary company in Zimbabwe, Better Mining Pty (Ltd) – is set to start mining soon.
Exiles in South Africa questioned the move. “South Africa should not take advantage of poor Zimbabweans and try to siphon their resources whilst strengthening their home market using Zimbabwean minerals. Zimbabwe will one day be an open investment market and the Zimbabwean populace should be the initial beneficiaries,” said one.
Zimbabweans say that when Africa Pearl starts operations, informal diamond mining will be crushed. In the past few months, over 30 000 people have been arrested for mining without licences and some have seen their precious stones taken by powerful politicians.
The national youth militias reportedly maintain a heavy presence, especially at Beitbridge border post, as many traders have been smuggling diamonds into South Africa, often in loaves of bread and petroleum jelly bottles.
A source in the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said two employees stationed at Beitbridge border post were caught red-handed buying diamond from illegal mineral traders, and were sentenced to 15 years each.
Government ministers and top politicians have also been named in illegal mining in Manicaland – which means they too will lose their share in the lucrative illegal mining trade.
According to media reports, vice president of Zimbabwe, Joice Mujuru, and former speaker of Parliament Emerson Mnangagwa, have been implicated by a parliamentary committee on mines, environment and tourism for illegal concerns in Kwekwe.
Much of the populace believes that the fact that not a single politician has been arrested for diamond mining, even though they are known. shows Zimbabwe is a kleptocratic state where thievery has been legalised.
President Mbeki has handled the Zimbawean government with kit gloves as he knows that, if he becomes careless on diplomatic relations, South African companies operating in Zimbabwe may end up losing mineral concessions which are of great benefit in sustaining his home economy.
Trust Matsilele is a freelance journalist based in Johannesburg.

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