By Bernard Chiketo
Fearful villagers from the diamond-rich Chiadzwa area are accusing the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) of gross human rights abuses, which its chief executive officer, Morris Mpofu, confirmed were being investigated by police.
President Robert Mugabe’s government was accused of gross human rights violations during the Chiadzwa diamond rush in 2008 when security forces were alleged of using force against villagers and artisanal miners.
This week, the villagers around the protected minefields, which have been taken over by the ZCDC, following government decision to consolidate the mines which were previously owned separately by local and foreign firms, accused ZCDC of using force against illegal miners.
The villagers allege that ZCDC security in some cases unleash dogs to maul arrested illegal miners.
“I received a report from the police on that issue and they are conducting investigations. My understanding from the report is that these were illegal panners who ran away and tried to swim across a slime dam and they drowned,” Mpofu told the Daily News.
He, however, denied that ZCDC security was perpetrating gross human rights violations, vowing to investigate the claims.
“I’m not aware of it…I’m getting it from you. If there is anything of that sort we are going to investigate it, but we have security that is well equipped and trained to ensure that it addresses all matters in a manner that is humane and following proper procedures.
“If there are elements within the security force that are doing that it’s not a corporate policy or strategy to do that,” he added.
Centre for Natural Resource Governance director, Farai Maguwu, blamed government for the alleged abuse of illegal diamond miners in Chiadzwa, saying it bred the culture of impunity.
“I think it’s simply a reflection of the culture of impunity which Zimbabwe has cultivated over the years, with people who commit gross human rights violations are never held to account.
“…in Zimbabwe it’s now become the norm that the security sector is above the law. They can kill, they can rape, they can beat and no one ever holds them accountable that’s why in Chiadzwa they feel it’s patriotic to beat people and dump them in Save River. If anything, they will be promoted for doing that,” Maguwu claimed.
“Given that ZCDC is a wholly-owned government entity we don’t expect their private security to do things that security companies employed by the Chinese were doing against Zimbabweans. They need to exercise tolerance.
“The issue is to understand why people are going to Chiadzwa. If you go and ask a child in primary school what job they would want no one will tell you they want to be a mukorokoza (artisanal miner).
People become makorokoza because they can’t find jobs. That should be understood. It’s a survival instinct that is pushing them. They don’t have any source of livelihood,” added Maguwu.
Extractive sector researcher and Centre for Research and Development director James Mupfumi said illegal diamond diggers need to be incorporated into formal mining operations and foster community ownership of the diamond fields, if the conflict is to be resolved.
“If you look into the portfolio committee report, there is this recommendation. A policy should be developed to integrate artisanal and small-scale diamond miners who are operating illegally in Marange,” he said.
“They have been cheated once. They know that ZCDC will not channel money to development. This is why the community is harbouring the illegal artisanal panners.
“…everyone in the value chain of diamond mining from the community, security and illegal miners have uncertainty over the benefits of diamond mining to the nation. These are syndicates operating because they don’t see any benefits from ZCDC operations.
“There is opacity and lack of transparency and no community ownership of the project. The community was ostracised since 2007 by the seven companies that were there,” added Mupfumi.
Meanwhile, opposition National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) is demanding the resignation of Mpofu following the drowning of four illegal diamond miners in a slime dam in Chiadzwa last week.
NCA Manicaland provincial spokesperson David Mukunda told the Daily News that his party has engaged Provincial Affairs minister Mandi Chimene demanding the investigation of ZCDC security and Mpofu’s sacking.
“NCA Manicaland has written to…Chimene to take action against the guards who caused the death of those four illegal diamond panners, to punish the company and also fire the CEO with immediate effect,” Mukunda said.
The four illegal miners reportedly died after they were trapped in a muddy slime dam while trying to flee ZCDC security last Monday.
ZCDC has been battling an influx of illegal artisanal miners in the gem-rich area.
All four — Collen Mazikani, Matrick Mafela, Never Mafundu and Moshood Musoso — are Chief Marange’s subjects who lost their lives in an area controlled by Headman Chiadzwa, a subject of Chief Muusha, albeit in an area originally belonging to the Marange people. Daily News