Mbada Diamonds should not be allowed to ‘get away with murder’

Mbada Diamond Company, which is owned by the Zimbabwe Mining Development Company - a government-owned entity - has been allowed to get away without paying its long-suffering workers for far too long, whilst it has been raking in billions of dollars.

An illegal diamond dealer from Zimbabwe displays diamonds for sale in ManicaThis can never be allowed to happen in a democratic and civilised world, where slavery is supposed to have been abolished centuries ago, yet still rears its ugly head in some parts of today’s world – including in Zimbabwe.

Diamond mining in Zimbabwe has been very fruitful to those who already had wealth, but the ‘have nots’ have been abused, and the little that they still had stolen from them and left with nothing.

The Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe already came out saying that at least USD15 Billion vanished into thin air in the diamond industry.

I will not delve into how such a staggering amount could just disappear from the country without the knowledge of those in power, but the fact still remains that billions – if not trillions – of dollars were made from diamonds – yet those who worked there have not been paid their salaries and pensions.

How heartless is that?

Such cruelty in the 21st Century  is not to be expected – let alone tolerated.

Mbada Diamond Company should not be left scot free, but should be held responsible for its actions.

Most of the workers stories are similar.

They worked at the company from 2012, but till they were unceremoniously laid off in 2014, they were hardly paid.

The company owes them thousands of dollars, in both unpaid salaries and pensions.

The manner in which they were dismissed also leaves the world asking whether this company is run by civilised people, or by some alien species.

How can a company simply call in workers and give them dismissal letters, and 24 hours to vacate the mine?

They were then told to return after a month, not to be given their money, but to merely collect payment statements – that simply acknowledged that the company owed them, but without committing to any payment date.

When these workers returned for the payment statements, the company did not even allow them onto the premises, but gave them the letters through the gate.

As of today, these workers are still waiting.

This is not to say they have been sitting idly – as they have tried their best to be paid their dues.

They approached the Labour Court in Mutare, where the matter was referred to conciliation in December 2015.

Mbada Diamonds agreed to pay its dismissed workers, but never fulfilled its pledges.

In fact, what makes this case even more suspicious is that when the workers met in Chiadzwa on 16 August 2016 to discuss the issue, they were forcibly dispersed by suspected state agents – as they were accused of an illegal gathering.

Why would the state be more concerned with an alleged ‘illegal’ gathering more than the sad situation that these unfairly treated workers have been subjected to by their employer?

Remember the missing USD15 Billion?

These same workers went to the company’s head offices in Borrowdale, Harare, but they were refused entry, and dogs allegedly set on them.

They demonstrated at the gate for five months but no one from the company came to address them.

In fact, Mbada Diamonds secretly vacated these premises, and the workers do not know where they relocated to.

This has further complicated the matter, since if they want to serve the company with legal summons, no one knows where to find them.

And this is a company that is owned by the Zimbabwe government!

What does this say about the government?

These dismissed workers’ families are living in abject poverty.

Their children are now lacking the most basic of rights – a good education, as the parents can not afford.

Food, and accommodation – let  alone, decent clothing – are now a daily struggle.

Yet, they toiled to many some few individuals billions, if not trillions, of dollars – splashing some of it on lavish sporting sponsorship deals.

The workers’ plight is worsened by the fact that they can not even afford a lawyer.

The poor getting poorer, and the oppressed getting more oppressed.

Such can not be allowed in this day and age.

Is this how today’s diamond industry wants to be globally portrayed?

Does the diamond industry want to be associated with slavery?

Did the diamond industry learn anything at all from the ‘blood diamonds’ fiasco?

Should the world mobilize to shun this industry, as it turns a callously blind eye towards this wanton disregard of human rights?

Organisations such as the Kimberly Process, and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) should be roped in to ensure that these workers are treated fairly, and finally receive justice.

We call upon all those who can push for the plight of these workers to come forward – such as Zimbabwe’s legislators, human rights lawyers, and activists.

We also would want to see diamond workers in other parts of the world stand in solidarity with these Mbada Diamonds employees.

These are no longer the days of John D. Rockefeller – who made their fortunes on the backs of an abused, over-worked, and grossly under-paid workforce.

In fact, in those days at least the workers were paid, but in Mbada Diamonds’ case, it is downright slavery, and should not be allowed to continue in a world that prides itself as being more civilised than those of medieval times.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and journalist. He writes in his personal capacity, and welcomes any feedback. Please feel free to call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: [email protected]com

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