Cletus Mushanawani Mutare Bureau—
A five-member ministerial delegation visited Chiadzwa diamond fields yesterday on a fact-finding mission after panners stormed the area in the wake of a Government directive to all mining firms there to cease operations and vacate the area within 90 days. Police said 50 villagers had been arrested as of yesterday.
All firms that were ordered to cease operations had not renewed their licences as stipulated by the Mines and Minerals Act. Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa said all the affected companies’ three-year licences had expired.
The delegation — comprising Dr Ignatius Chombo (Home Affairs), Dr Chris Mushohwe (Information, Media and Broadcasting Services), Dr Lazarus Dokora (Primary and Secondary Education) and Mandi Chimene (Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs) — toured premises of all the affected firms where police have taken over security provisions.
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The affected firms include Mbada Diamonds, Diamond Mining Company (DMC), Jinan and Anjin. Marange Resources, which is 100 percent owned by the Government, is still operating and has invested in new state-of-the-art equipment.
The delegation was told that some firms refused to surrender keys to vaults and sorting rooms. However, security personnel on the ground said the situation was back to normal as more deployments were being made to seal off the area from would-be troublemakers.
“All the licences of the affected mines had expired and they did not bother to renew them. They only started to react when we started pushing for their consolidation into one company.
“Since their licences had expired, they no longer have title or any reason to continue mining. The companies were totally against their consolidation into one mine. We tried to engage them in a number of extra-ordinary general meetings with their shareholders, but they remained adamant,” said Cde Chidhakwa.
He said all the affected companies would never be allowed to mine again at Chiadzwa as Cabinet on Tuesday approved the decision to close them.
“Some people have been asking me whether we will reconsider them if they formalise their applications, but their position was asserted by Cabinet yesterday (Tuesday). Anybody in their dreams harbouring the thought that the companies will be re-licenced should get out of that dream. There is no going back on that issue because the companies were a big let-down to the nation during their stay at Chiadzwa.
“Their time is up and it is high time our people benefit from the proceeds of their resources. All the companies never declared a dividend to the Government as a shareholder. They always gave excuses of making losses, but how can loss making ventures continue operating, with some of them asking for more concessions?”
On security concerns, Cde Chidhakwa said: “We were tasked by Cabinet to come to the ground to get a true picture of the prevailing situation on the ground after reports that a free for all situation was obtaining here with the police being overwhelmed by panners reinvading the area as well as other elements sabotaging the hand-over process. Yes, we got some reports of resistance from personnel of some companies, but everything is now under control. Workers should know that it was their employers who led to this situation, but they should not despair as they would be accommodated in the new set-up.
“To the deployed police officers, I want to remind you that you are a professional force and should maintain that integrity. Young men and women may start having other ideas, but they should be stopped immediately. If you fail to control the junior officers, you will be bringing the force into disrepute. You should look after the facilities being left here. Every little thing should be looked after because you have a constitutional mandate to do so,” said Cde Chidhakwa.
On the equipment being left behind, the minister said an inventory of everything would be carried out and all stakeholders would meet to chart the way forward on their disposal. Dr Chombo said police were out to deal with all economic saboteurs.
“We have deployed our officers here to ensure that there is no looting of our diamonds and other equipment. We do not want selfish people in our midst and we will make sure that there is law and order here. We will only withdraw our forces after the completion of the consolidation process.
“All police officers deployed here should not be found wanting because we will not hesitate to crack the whip. You should avoid any acts of corruption. You should not do anything that brings the name of the force and Government into disrepute.
“Commanders here should not hesitate to request for more manpower and resources like vehicles and motorbikes if a need arises. We want to make this area as secure as possible,” he said.
Dr Mushohwe said the booted companies deserved it because they had proved to be big liars who never delivered on any undertaking they would have made.
“The companies took President Mugabe and the nation for a ride by pledging that they would support the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust, but nothing materialised. Schools, clinics and roads are still in their sorry state despite numerous reminders to the company to fulfil their pledges.
“They are themselves to blame because where in the world do you find companies operating without licences? The companies did not respect our traditional rites as some of them violated our ancestors’ graves, with some of the remains being swept away by water in Odzi River.
“We hail this decision as it was long overdue. Traditional leaders should play their role by not harbouring panners in their areas,” said Dr Mushohwe. Headman Chiadzwa pledged continuous support and said the development was a dawn of a new era in their area.
“We were eagerly waiting for this development because the kicked out companies were a big let-down. They never delivered on any promise they would have made. They left us even poorer than we were before. To us, we can safely say this is the dawn of a new era and it is more like being born again. We had suffered a lot at the hands of these companies,” he said.
On security, Headman Chiadzwa said: “We will play our part to ensure that law and order is maintained here, but the police should not accept bribes because we have reports of them being paid as little as $10 to allow panners to sneak and pan in the diamond fields.”