Tempers flare at diamond mining meeting

PENHALONGA – A meeting ended prematurely as tempers flared at TsvingwePrimary School in Penhalonga this afternoon when officials from Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) addressed residents in Tsvingwe of the impending relocations following the discovery of diamonds in the area.

The residents who had attended the meeting raised concerns against ZCDC over its glaring failure to run Marange diamonds transparentlyand uphold human rights abuses. The irate residents took Marange as a case study and some villagers in Marange who were relocated to make way for the diamond mines havenever been compensated and have been dumped.

The residents in Tsvingwe have argued that many of the Marange villagers are now wallowing in abject poverty. An official from ZCDC tried in vain to address the angry residents but could not finish his address as they were rumbles of discontent from the fuming residents.

“You have to understand and listen. We have come here to inform you that we suspect that there are diamonds here and we want to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) we proceed to the next stages of prospecting and mining,” he said.

However, the residents would have none of it and told the ZCDC officials to go and first compensate the relocated villagers at ARDA Transau. Said a furious resident: “You are talking jokes here. We will die here. You can even kill us and we will not go anywhere. We are afraid that we might end up fall in the same case as Marange villagers who were relocated. We say no to the relocations.”

The meeting therefore, ended prematurely as there was commotion. Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) director Farai Maguwu who was present said government was taking the people for a ride. “They (ZCDC) are talking of the environmental impact assessment, but it appears they have already finished prospecting because they already have a map of the area to be affected. The mapped area was shown to the residents,” he said.

“The residents are unequivocally clear that they don’t want diamond mining in their area, given what happened in Chiadzwa. How can the ZCDC officials say those to be affected shall be compensated. But the residents have said before you compensate us please compensate the Marange people whom you dispossessed of their land,” explained Maguwu.

He added that CNRG is working with the Penhalonga community in defense of the commons. “What happened in Chiadzwa will not be allowed in Penhalonga. We say no to extractivism and yes to life,” he said. He said ZCDC has previously not honored its pledges and government is complicit in disregarding the legitimate expectations of the people of Chiadzwa.

“Nothing in the ongoing reforms spells out progress in addressing the needs of the displaced,” Maguwu explained. Over 800 families were relocated to pave way for diamond mining in Chiadzwa. The families were resettled at ARDA Transau farm in Odzi. Each displaced family was allocated a 3-bedroomed house, 11hectares of arable land including 1 hectare earmarked for irrigation and a once off US$1 000 disturbance allowance.

According to the government evaluators, each family was supposed to get US$40 000 as compensation. Up to now, the families have not received any compensation. The Zimunya/Marange Community Share Ownership Trust has been a sham, with very little to nothing of note getting into the hands of the said beneficiaries.

The previous mining companies have been accused of lying to President Robert Mugabe when they sold a dummy by presenting a cheque for $1,5 million to him during the colourful launch of the Zimunya/Marange Community Share Ownership Trust in 2012. Five companies pledged to pay $10m in the trust’s coffers, but up to date, only two companies, Mbada Diamonds and Marange Resources remitted $400 000.

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