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Chiadzwa villagers sing the blues

MUTARE — Families relocated from the controversial Chiadzwa diamond fields are singing the blues after some of the companies extracting the gems in Marange dumped them at Arda Transau resettlement area without providing them with alternative means of survival.

Mine in Chiadzwa
Mine in Chiadzwa

The villagers said their relocation to Arda Transau, which measures about 14 000 hectares, condemned them to occasional beggars who are now dependent on handouts and yet they used to be self-reliant.

They said the opportunities created as a result of the discovery of the precious stones in Marange such as jobs and supply contracts were benefiting outsiders and not the locals. The villagers have since petitioned the powers-that-be in Manicaland Province seeking redress.

Mutare District Administrator, Cosmas Chiringa, said they had noted the petition from the villagers. Top on their list is petition that the miners should first consider the affected families for employment and other spin-offs arising from their activities ahead of outsiders.

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They also want the companies to invest in income generating projects to improve their welfare.

Another bone of contention between the villagers and the diamond mining companies is the erratic distribution of food handouts and lethargy in putting in place the supporting infrastructure such as schools and clinics.

Outgoing Manicaland Governor Chris Mushohwe has been at the forefront of defending the villagers saying the diamond mining firm in Chiadzwa are not doing enough in terms of corporate social responsibility.

“The mining companies have not done enough in terms of corporate social responsibility. They must do more. The locals are not benefitting anything. Let them be warned that our patience is now being strained,” said Mushohwe.

The chairperson of the villagers resettled by Anjin at Arda Transau, Timothy Ndamera, said villagers were unable to embark on any meaningful livelihood sustaining project because there is no water and they have no money since they are unemployed.

“Some cannot buy stationery because they are poor. The villagers are surviving from hand to mouth. We have petitioned the relevant authorities to empower us with income generating projects so that we can be self-reliant,” he said.

The Arda Transau area comprises of villagers relocated by Anjin Investments, Marange Resources, Mbada Diamonds and Diamond Mining Company (DMC). Anjin has relocated 474 families while Mbada has moved 400 households to Arda Transau.

Marange has relocated 121 families while DMC has not yet relocated any villagers. About 4 300 families are still to be relocated. The process has been slow because Arda Transau can only accommodate 1 800 families.

Under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the diamond mining firms and government, each company was supposed to build a primary and secondary school, clinic, provide clean water for the relocated families while supporting income generating projects for their livelihood.

Out of the four diamond mining companies, Anjin has managed to construct a primary and secondary school as well as a clinic while Mbada is currently refurbishing a school. Anjin believes they have done enough to honour the MoU signed with the government.

Mbada Diamonds said several income generating projects were being implemented to make the villagers self-reliant one of which being a chicken-rearing project estimated to cost US$188 000.

George Manyaya, the corporative services executive for Mbada Diamonds, said the company was also considering establishing a piggery project and an abattoir to slaughter cattle in the area.

“We are implementing these income generating projects in order to make our villagers more self-reliant. We don’t want them to keep depending on the quarterly donations. Also, they don’t have to trouble themselves searching for a market since Mbada Diamonds would be buying all their products.

“We also appeal to members of the media to assist us by giving ideas on other initiatives we can embark on for the benefit of our villagers,” said Manyaya. Financial Gazette