Villagers call for seizure of mine equipment

Lloyd Gumbo in CHIADZWA
Marange villagers have implored Government to seize mining equipment owned by companies that were mining diamonds in Chiadzwa until they fulfil the pledges they allegedly made to the Zimunya-Marange Community Share Ownership Trust.

There is confusion over how much the five firms – Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Anjin Investments, Jinan and Diamond Mining Corporation – pledged to the Trust.

Some of companies are on record as telling the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment that they only pledged $1,5 million each while others expressed ignorance on the existence of the Trust.

But former Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who superintended the establishment of the Zimunya-Marange Community Share Ownership Trust told the same committee that the five companies had pledged $10 million each yet only $500 000 had been paid since 2012.

Chief Marange hailed the decision by Government to reclaim the concessions saying they did not have anything to show for the years formal mining of the gems started.

“This is the best decision that Government has made because we were suffering despite living in an area that is blessed with diamonds,” he said.

“But this does not mean that the companies should just go without fulfilling the pledges they made to the Community Trust. A promise is a credit, so they should pay the money they promised because they have been mining all along.

“It is important that Government seizes their assets and force them to honour their pledges. If they are reluctant then Government should sell those assets and pay to the Trust.

“Our people were evicted from here, they lost their fields and were left with no means of livelihood but they did not get anything meaningful despite the massive extraction of minerals. So it is important that Government does not turn a deaf ear to the plight of the people in this area by ignoring the pledges that were made.”

Chief Marange said they also wanted the companies to fulfil the promises to relocate the villagers.

He said the majority of villagers were still trapped in concessions which affected their health.

“Some of the people were inhaling dust from mining activities, which we believe has compromised their health. It is therefore important that these companies also pay for medical check-ups for villagers who were affected.

“They must also make sure that remaining villagers are relocated because that is the promise they made. The fact that they have been booted out is none of our business. What we know is that they have been mining for more than five years and they made money,” said Chief Marange.

Other villagers concurred with their traditional leader saying they expected the decision by Government to bring them relief.

“When they started operating they recruited locals but with time, locals were the first people to be axed on claims that they were thieves.

“So it is good that Government has now taken over. So we expect Government to first ensure that these companies pay to the Trust. If they are allowed to get away with this it will set a bad precedence as other companies will renege on fulfilling the pledges knowing that they can leave without paying,” said a villager who only identified himself as Matthew.

Another villager who requested anonymity added: “We expect the new company to prioritise villagers in this area by ensuring that they benefit from the mining activities here. As you can see people here have no source of livelihood so they must be taken care of. I am saying this because in other areas they have arable land and soils from where they earn their living. But for us, it is these minerals that must take care of us just like the good soils that are benefiting people in other provinces.”

Some workers said they wanted Government to expedite the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company’s operations.

“Some of us had gone for months without getting our full salaries. So it is important that the new company immediately addresses the welfare of workers.

“We hold no grief for our former bosses because they were only interested in themselves. They did not care about our upkeep. So we are hopeful that the new company will not retrench us but utilise our experience,” said one worker.

Another employee added: “Government should immediately set the ball rolling at these companies that they have taken over to avoid a situation where employees are tempted to do illegal panning because these are people who know the geology of the area.

“If they delay, we will see illegal panning coming back. This time it will be difficult to contain because now people know what is underground.”

Government on Monday ordered all diamond companies except Marange Resources to seize operations after they failed to renew their mining permits.

They were also reluctant to join the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company that Government introduced as a way of improving transparency and accountability.

Cabinet has since taken a position that there is no going back on reclaiming the concessions.

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