Traditional leaders in the Chiadzwa area have spoken out strongly against a demonstration staged on Monday against the Zimbabwe Consolidated Mining Company (ZCDC).
Led by Lovemore Mukwada of Bocha Diamond Development Trust, the protesters accused ZCDC of not doing enough to lift the surrounding communities in the diamond-rich region out of poverty.
It is, however, being feared that non-governmental organisations working in and around the controversial diamond fields could be manipulating locals to demonstrate against ZCDC in order to achieve their selfish interests.
That the demonstration came less than a month after ZCDC signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with leaders of a trust representing the community to attend to key development priorities, seem to vindicate these suspicions.
Headman Chiadzwa told the Eastern News this week that the demonstrators lacked an appreciation of the realities on the ground.
“We didn’t demonstrate because we appreciate that the mine has challenges that it is currently working on…the main mine is even yet to be commissioned and there is no need to raise any alarm about the company’s alleged failure to invest in community development initiatives at the moment.
“This (demonstration) came from people who do not know what is obtaining on the ground here,” Headman Chiadzwa said.
There has been a proliferation of community-based groups in Chiadzwa, facilitated by different pressure groups.
Matthew Mundondo, a local spiritual leader, said villagers in the area were against demonstrations because they were being spearheaded by people outside of Chiadzwa.
“Issues were discussed with the company and progress on the ground shows that ZCDC will develop Chiadzwa once it sells its diamonds. While they are still to sell their diamonds, there are tangible things on the ground achieved using funds that are supposed to finance full operations,” said Mundondo.
Recently, Marange Development Trust (MDT) signed an MOU with ZCDC on behalf of the community.
MDT once had run-ins with ZCDC, when it accused the State-run firm of operating without an Environmental Impact Assessment certificate, before they smoked a peace pipe.
The trust is now being recognised as legitimate body representing the interests of the locals.
Malvern Mudiwa, who heads MDT, said it was premature to call for demonstrations against ZCDC, adding that the demonstrators were raising exactly the same things his organisation had tabled before the corporation.
“We could not stop them from exercising their constitutional rights to protest but the same dams, roads, clinics, schools and infrastructure we signed to have developed are the same things they want.
“They will still need to come to the negotiating table where we are and that is the reason we didn’t join them because it would have been inappropriate for us to march against a company that we are already in positive dialogue with,” Mudiwa said.
He said they have since urged ZCDC to engage the pressure group and invite them to the negotiation table where they would also help shed light on progress being made.
Efforts to get a comment from Mukwada to clarify on the need to protest their partner — Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), which helped organise the protests said the protests were deserved.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Natural Resource Governance, which helped organise the protest, saluted the demonstrators for standing up to ZCDC and its predecessors.
“The demands of the community are profound and straightforward. They want real development. No to imprisonment of a proud people through placement of the community under Protected Places and Area Act,” said Farai Maguwu, the centre’s executive director.
“Marange is not a park, these are the people and not animals. No to torture and ZCDC killings, we also helped in organising this demonstration because we saw that the community was not benefiting,” claimed Maguwu. Daily News