Spencer Jara, 31, is one of the many illegal panners who have been brutalised by security officers in the controversial diamond fields. Hard-up Zimbabweans continue to sneak into the heavily guarded diamond fields, though if caught the guards mete out instant justice on the illegal panners.
The worsening economic crisis in the country is forcing many people to sneak into illegal diamond panning in Marange with serious implications if caught. The government continues to deny such abuses, though at various meeting organised by NGOs to discuss the emotive diamond issue, brutalities by security forces have been raised.
Jara was caught last week, dogs were set on him and he sustained serious dog bites. He said he was caught in a diamond concession owned by Mbada Diamonds, one of the seven companies licensed by government to mine the lucrative alluvial diamond deposits.
No comment could be obtained from authorities at Mbada. Jara was admitted at a private hospital in Mutare, after receiving assistance from the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), an NGO which has been documenting such abuses. The CRD documented more than 50 such cases last year most of which have not been reported to police.
â€œI desperately need the money to sustain my family. I have a wife and two young children. My family faces starvation and my children have dropped out of school because I have no money to pay the fees,â€ Jara said from his hospital bed. He said he tried tobacco farming at the family plot in Rusape but due to poor prices at the tobacco auction floors this year he did not get much from his crop.
He revealed that over 300 illegal panners were still finding their way into the diamond fields. And these panners are sheltered by villagers living close to the diamond fields after paying around $20 dollars a month as rentals.
According to CRD director James Mupfumi, diamond mining in Marange has alienated local communities and compromised their livelihoods.
The communities living close to the diamonds fields have not benefitted from the rich resource and the government has since admitted that huge amounts of diamond revenues generated over years of extraction has not made it to the Treasury.
However, the move by government to consolidate the diamond industry in order to promote accountability and transparency across the value chain has been hampered by the lack of commitment by the executive arm of government.
â€œIn the meantime we urge government to encourage the mining companies to adapt best practices in doing business whilst raising awareness in the communities on the dangers of trespassing into restricted mining concessions,â€ Mupfumi said.Post published in: Featured