George Maponga in Masvingo
There are prospects of a peaceful resolution to a raging dispute between Murowa Diamond Company and the Sese community in Chivi with the former expressing hope that the district develolment coordinator’s office will abitrate to break the impasse.
This comes as village heads in Sese yesterday came out with guns blazing accusing the diamond miner now officially known as RZM Murowa Pvt (Ltd) of damaging roads with their heavy duty exploration equipment making it even difficult to move agricultural inputs to their fields.
The Sese village heads escalated the standoff further demanding that Government immediately stop the diamond miner from conducting operations until their concerns have been addressed.
RZM Murowa has been exploring for diamonds on its kimberlite claims in Sese since 2018 but the local community allege the gem extractor has been shortchanging them by ignoring their concerns.
Among the concerns was that RZM Murowa had camped at a local school Danhamombe Secondary, disrupting learning activities while its exploration activities had allegedly led to livestock deaths blamed on water contaminated by the firm’s mining activities.
RZM Murowa was given an ultimatum to decamp from Danhamombe by the fuming or risk legal action but the mining firm did not budge.
Opening up for the first time on the impasse RZM Murowa Vice President(Human Resources and Administration)Mr Islam Chipango played down the dispute with the Sese community describing it as a “misunderstanding.”
“What we have is not a dispute but its a misunderstanding with the Sese community and we have engaged the district development coordinator(Mr Innocent Matingwina) who is working to resolve it and we are now waiting to hear from his office having furnished him with all the paperwork and information pertaining to our exploitation activities,”said Mr Chipango.
“As RZM Murowa we have a community engagement plan that we follow when getting into an area, we engage the local leadership that is councillor and traditional leaders, the district development coordinator and also the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development in our case.”
Mr Chipango attributed the current misunderstanding to that some of the offocials his company engaged upon starting operations in Chivi were no longer there.
“We want to co-exist peacefully with the people of Sese but we were given authority to camp at Danhamombe by the relevant authority,ww cannot just go and camp at a school without permission.”
He admitted that while RZM equipment had damaged some roads in Sese rehabilitation work could not kick off under the current rainy season.
However, Sese villagees heads accused RZM Murowa of being insensitive.
Zhara village head Mr Simon Zhara expressed disquiet with the damage allegedly caused by the diamond firm in his area.
“Their(RZM Murowa) heavy duty tractors have extensively damaged our local roads that our ox-drawn scotch carts can hardly use these roads which is hampering movement of inputs to our fields.Its a real mess and this company should be considerate to our plight.”
His sentiments were echoed by another village head Mr Mujaho Mashamhanda of Mashamhanda village who questioned RZM Murowa’s alleged condescending attitude towards Sese people.
“We have tried in vain to engage them over our local roads they have damaged because of their exploration work. We heard that they will only start repairing our roads at the end of the rainy season but the situation is now affecting movement to fields and ferrying the sick to clinics,” said Mr Mashamhanda.
Mr Manuel Manzunzu of Zhara village alleged that half his maize field had been extensively damaged by after-shocks from explosives used in exploration by RZM Murowa during drilling near his field.
Councillor for the area Cde Alec Nhundu urged RZM Murowa to listen to the concerns of the locals and exhorted the district administrator’s office to speedily intervene and resolve the impasse.
Mr Matingwina promised to tackle the standoff between the twp feuding parties.
“I will make time to meet both parties so that there can be peaceful co-existence between RZM Murowa and the Sese community. We have been collating information on the background to the whole issue and want to address the issue to the satisfaction of both parties.”
Government is on record saying that investors such as RZM Murowa should engage communities in areas where they operate so that there is buy-in in their projects.