Ruth Butaumocho Gender Editor
Mr Obert Dozva (62) watched in shock as afternoon wintry winds blew apparel used to bury one of his late sons, right into his face.
As relatives and friends scrambled to gather the torn clothes and chipped planks from the desecrated grave laid bare, probably during the night by illegal miners, Mr Dozva could only watch in shock.
Several villagers who had accompanied the Dozva family for a consecration service in Bocha, could only stare in disbelief while huddled in a corner as the shocking events unfolded.
“Asi zvinondishura?” Mr Dozva whispered while being led to a nearby chair. (This is a bad omen).
Mr Dozva is among hundreds of villagers who are demanding compensation from Chinese and local diamond mining companies for the desecration of their relative’s graves when the families were relocated from Marange to pave way for diamond mining activities in Chiadzwa in Manicaland.
The seven diamond mining companies licensed to mine diamonds in Chiadzwa – Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Company (DMC), Jinan, Kusena and GyeNyame – operated as joint ventures with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, when mining activities started in 2006.
All diamond mining activities have since been consolidated under the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company.
Mr Dozva, who now lives in Arda Transau near Mutare following the family’s relocation from Marange, about 80 kilometres, to pave way for diamond mining activities sometime in 2006, is a heart broken man.
“When we were relocated from Marange we were promised compensation for our homesteads, land and payment for the desecrated graves, with assurances for the rehabilitation of those tombs that were still intact,” said Mr Dozva.
“We managed to get some compensation for our homes, but to this day, nothing has been said or done about the desecrated graves of our beloved families that we left in Marange.
“The situation has been made worse by illegal miners who has since invaded the cemetery, carrying out activities in the night,” he said.
With four of his children buried there, Mr Dozva is a troubled man. All attempts to seek recourse from relevant authorities have not yielded any results.
“Justice will have to prevail. Already hopes are high among the community that the new dispensation, through President Mnangagwa, will address our issue.
“We have waited for long, and we cannot continue to wait any longer,” he said.
He is not alone in his search for redress. Mr Dozva is part of more than 1000 families awaiting compensation for their relatives’ desecrated graves.
More than a decade after assurances of compensation, many are still waiting the promises to be fulfilled.
Others have lost hope.
Mrs Dadirai Chigora (60) lost her two sons in a tragic road accident a few weeks before the relocation of the community to pave way for diamond mining.
Still traumatised by the tragedy, Mrs Chigora had to relocate in a huff, before the bodies of her two sons had “burst” as per Shona tradition.
“During the first year, I was convinced that Anjin mine owners would erect tombstones immediately and I would be able to conduct rituals, as per our customs.
“Days have turned into months and years. I don’t see anything coming in our way to compensate us or to rehabilitate the graves of our loved ones,” she said resignedly.
Chairperson of the Arda Transau Development Association Mr Don Masvaure confirmed the issue of compensation for desecrated graves.
He said the relocated families were living on promises made by diamond companies that have since ceased operating.
“We have exhausted all the channels regarding the compensation.
“Before the consolidation of diamond activities, on several occasions we tried to engage them on the issue of compensation even land for farming, as per their initial promises, but they were stubborn.
“Now that the companies have ceased operations, I don’t know what will happen to all the unfulfilled promises.
“We are now appealing to the President to intervene. All we want is the fulfilment of all the promises made during our relocation,” he said.
Mr Masvaure said it was important for the Zimbabwe Diamond Consolidated Company to honour its promises to rehabilitate the graves because of the cultural aspect attached to death.
“For Africans, death is accompanied by performances of rituals which connect the dead and the living.
“While not every local person may believe the cultural importance of graves and the spiritual realm of the dead, those traditional beliefs are widely respected. Failing to honour and respect the dead is an insult to our customs, and those who believe them,” he warned.
The raging Arda Transau controversy is no doubt a call to the Local Government relocation provisions which stipulate that in the event of relocation, local authorities will compensate for economic developments such as houses, land preparation and other improvements, where money was used.
The newly elected Provincial Minister for Manicaland, Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba said she would need to visit Arda Transau to appraise herself of the situation.
The decision to allow foreigners to partner with locals in diamond mining as part of Government’s efforts to boost production has proved to be more challenging than what the nation had anticipated.
At one time the diamond mining companies were accused of lying to former President Mugabe 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 contribute $10m to the trust coffers, but up to date, only two companies, Mbada Diamonds and Marange resources, have remitted $400 000.