Obert Chifamba Mutare Bureau
Diamond mining at Chiadzwa did not benefit Manicaland Province, but brought problems like environmental degradation and potential health challenges owing to chemicals used by the miners, Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister Mandi Chimene has said.
She told The Herald Eastern Edition that Manicaland had nothing tangible to show for diamonds being mined in the province. Minister Chimene said infrastructure in the province was dilapidated and needed urgent rehabilitation.
“We may have benefited as a nation, especially as some of the money was used to recapitalise different sectors of the economy, but as the custodians of the mineral, we did not get anything tangible,” she said.
“Roads, schools and hospitals are in a very bad state, yet diamonds would be mined and transported to Harare without even repairing the same roads that the transporters used.
“Our provincial hospital is in shambles. Our schools do not have critical amenities, while roads are almost impassable in some parts, yet we were producing a mineral that had the potential to get the wheels of the national economy turning.
“Our people are devastated. They needed to see something tangible from the diamonds. I am also very disappointed.”
Minister Chimene said companies that were extracting diamonds before the coming in of the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) last year had failed to meet the Government requirement of establishing Community Share Ownership Trust schemes.
She said only Mbada met part of the requirements.
“Manicaland Province has some of the best scenic attractions to boost our tourism earnings, but we fail to market or give them the much-needed facelift using proceeds from diamond mining,” said Minister Chimene.
“We have an aerodrome that could have easily become a vital cog in our tourism sector as a province if it were upgraded to an airport. Most tourists want to do long distances from the air, then tour attractive sites by road so many could be staying away because of such factors.”
Minister Chimene said the market place for horticultural products was also in shambles, while the diamond companies hired experts outside the province, denying locals jobs.
She lauded Government for taking over operations at Chiadzwa.
“At the moment, Government is facing capitalisation challenges,” said Minister Chimene. “It is too early to judge their performance. We will begin to see progress soon.
“The problem at the moment is that illegal panners had descended on Chiadzwa soon after the ejection of the nine companies, so Government has been concentrating more on protective issues rather than productive ones, but results will soon show.”
As of May this year, official Government statistics showed that ZCDC was producing between 95 000 and 100 000 carats a month against a target of approximately of between 300 000 and 350 000 carats.
Manicaland Province is endowed with a lot of mineral deposits that include gold, copper, bauxite, arsenic and iron.