Hope on the horizon for Zimbabwe’s diamond communities

MUTARE – After living on one of the world’s richest Marange diamond fields for almost a decade, some villagers’ hopes and dreams of becoming rich were regrettably shattered and turned into nightmares, as it imminently came to reality that they were actually driven into abject poverty.

However, the incoming of the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Companies (ZCDC) into the mining fields has given increasing hopes to the once disheartened communities in the diamond rich area. The government of Zimbabwe early last year ceased operations of nine diamond companies following their failure to renew operating licences, amid reports they had failed to account for all the gems they mined. Morris Mpofu, the ZCDC chief executive officer has pledged to finally fulfil the unkempt promises made to villagers in Marange by the previous miners.
“We know what this community wants and we have already begun engaging with the community to address its needs,” said Mpofu in a recent interview. “We understand that there is no employment to the displaced villagers and their children,” Mpofu said. “I want to assure you that we are going to address the challenges faced by the community, the journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. We are going to develop and support this community, ZCDC is your company,” he said. Communities in Marange have been facing a myriad of problems.
Relocated villagers have lost out on compensation 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, one hectare of arable land 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. It’s now almost a decade down the line, the families have not received any compensation. Mines minister Walter Chidakwa told Parliament last month that the ZCDC still has 300 million tonnes of diamond ore to mine in Chiadzwa. “The organisation has 300 million tonnes of ore containing 200 million carats all in the inferred category or ore resource classification, whose confidence level is currently about 20 percent,” Chidakwa said. “We are now working to improve confidence levels, and the 300 million tonnes comprise 20 percent alluvial and 80 percent conglomerate ores,” he said. But despite these encouraging statements from Chidhakwa, the people of Chiadzwa quickly want to forget about the past and are hoping for a sweeter remedy. During the past decade, children at some schools in Chiadzwa have dropped out of school while others collapsed during lessons due to prolonged hunger, yet they are in diamond rich area.
In a recent interview, the School Development Committee chairperson for Betera Primary School Lovemore Mukwada said the situation had become dire and requested ZCDC to quickly intervene. “In most of the primary schools children have dropped out of school as a result of hunger. We have cases where some children are fainting during lessons as they would have spent days without having food,” said Mukwada.
Mukwada said the situation had also been exacerbated by the fact that the distribution of government food aid had been politicized as presumed MDC-T supporters were not receiving anything. “It is a big challenge because the headmen who are responsible for distributing the food aid end up politicizing the programme. The headmen will give the food to those that are aligned to Zanu PF and the whole process becomes a very big problem to those that are perceived to be MDC-T supporters,” he said.
Grinding poverty at Arda Transau where hundreds of villagers were relocated has forced married women to turn to prostitution to make ends meet for themselves and their children, according to the leader of Arda Transau Relocation Development Trust (ATRDT) Women’s Forum Clarah Magobeya.
“Families at Arda Transau were dumped by the mining companies. As you are aware several mining companies that relocated the villagers like Anjin Investments have stopped mining operations and there is disaster there,” she said. “Men, who were usually the bread winners, have been out of work this has forced wives and girl children to resort to commercial sex work in order to feed families. All is not well at Arda Transau, these diamonds have brought untold suffering to the innocent people there,” said the visibly emotional Magobeya.
And these are some of the problems that the new ZCDC leadership should tackle. With Chidhakwa confirming that annual production is expected to increase by 150 percent to 2,4 million carats for the full year of 2017 the people of Marange hope to open a new chapter of decent lives. Villagers in Marange have pressed ZCDC to come up with a comprehensive strategy that will address the unfulfilled commitments made by different mining companies.
James Mupfumi the Acting Director of The Centre for Research and Development (CRD) said before the formalisation of mining in Chiadzwa, the community enjoyed the fruits of the diamonds. “The people say they were happier before the minerals were discovered. The people of Chiadzwa believe that the discovery of diamonds is a curse. People are suffering in the midst of plenty riches, yet they are so poor,” he said. “Most of those that were relocated are yet to be compensated, and the mines are not doing anything meaningful to improve people’s livelihoods,” added Mupfumi.
John Chirasika who was also relocated from Chiadzwa said: “I was better off when I was at my homestead in Chirasika village. I used to have everything and life was good for me and my family. But, look at me now, my life has changed to the worse. I am now poor and I will die poor.” “They (mining companies) promised to compensate us but now we hear the companies have been told to cease operations and it means that we will not get our compensation money,” he added. It is the same story for Given Muzanechita and hundreds others. “We were just dumped here (Arda Transau). I left my traditional home and I was relocated here for nothing. They talked about compensating us but this will not come to pass as we will not get our money from these companies,” he said.
The Zimunya/Marange Community Share Ownership Trust was a sham, with very little to nothing of note that got into the hands of the beneficiaries. The mining companies have been accused of lying to Mugabe for 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.
But headman Robert Chaidzwa believes ZCDC will restore the lost hope: “I want to applaud ZCDC. I think the company is moving in the right direction. We expect them to help my community with jobs and I am very confident that they are going to help,” said Chiadzwa. The ZCDC Boss, Mpofu said although the diamonds were set to benefit all Zimbabweans, locals should be the first to benefit from the precious stones. Chidhakwa said the government would rather halt mining operations if mining companies continue to fleece the government through understating of the diamonds.

Post published in: Mining

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *