Govt tightens screws on Marange miners

Pressure from the people of Manicaland may force the government to take action against diamond mining companies in Marange for their reluctance to support displaced and hungry Marange villagers.

The neglect of the local community has forced the government to intervene.
The neglect of the local community has forced the government to intervene.

Christopher Mushohwe, the Minister of State for Manicaland, last week warned the companies that they risked heavy state censure for failing to meet their obligations if they continued to flout the law.

The companies have been under heavy criticism from ordinary people, the business community, pressure groups and politicians in Manicaland for their unwillingness to help local communities to deal with the negative consequences of the discovery of diamonds in the area.

Intensive mining activities have exposed the people, especially those around Chiadzwa diamond fields, to serious health hazards in an area where health facilities have collapsed and the largest hospital is 70 km away in Mutare.

Close to 4,300 households are still trapped a mere 400 metres away from the mining zone, exposed to serious health risks. Their relocation to Arda Transau was hampered by the non-payment of outstanding funds into the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Scheme by mining giants -Anjin Investments, Mbada Diamonds, Diamond Mining Company (DMC), Marange Resources, among others.

“The people in Marange are sleeping without food; their children are not going to school; and there are no clinics, yet they (the people) sniff dust all the time within the mining area,” said Mushohwe.

The diamond companies were expected to pay for the relocation of villagers from Chiadzwa to Arda Transau; to compensate them; and to build roads, clinics and schools.

Further, the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act, required the mining houses to set up community-share ownership trusts. The trusts are supposed to get $10 million for the displaced communities to use for welfare and development projects.

The neglect of the local community has forced the government to intervene, warning the companies to honour their commitments. “We need to speed up the relocation exercise,” said Mushohwe. “We must make sure that the trust works, not only in Marange-Zimunya. It is my hope that we will not die talking about Manicaland as the richest province when in fact our people are the poorest.”

Fungai Mbesa, the Manicaland provincial administrator, earlier accused the diamond companies of concentrating on mining activities without taking care of the concerns of local communities.

Most of Chiadzwa’s residents are unemployed peasants, with limited access to food and health care, in an area that claims 30 percent of the world diamond deposits.

Mushohwe said enforcement was the only option. “I’m sure government is going to enforce compliance because if we leave these capitalist companies alone, they will not do it.”

Villagers raised numerous concerns with the minister, included allegations that the diamond companies preferred to employ workers, including staff for manual work, from outside Manicaland – a province with nearly 100 percent unemployment.

“I have spoken to the companies on behalf of the government and they agreed that whenever they employ people around their mining area they should give those people first opportunity,” said Mushohwe. “We do not want to see a situation where (even) a driver is coming from outside the province when we have thousands of drivers here.”

In response, Anjin spokesperson Munyaradzi Machacha asked: “Which contracts stipulate that we should do everything? We have done enough and what is left is for the government and the villagers to finish (off what we started).”

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