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Marange community shelters diamond smugglers, cites economic hardships

Government is seemingly paying the price of neglecting the residents of Arda Transau in Eastern Zimbabwe who were forcibly relocated from their ancestral villages to pave way for mining in one of the world’s largest diamond-producing deposits in Marange as they are now offering shelter to illegal miners to cushion themselves against the unbearable economic hardships.

They were removed from their land 15 years ago to make a road for foreign companies and the government to mine diamonds. The affected residents were promised decent houses, schools and improved economic conditions.

But none of the promises were fulfilled and they are still living in abject poverty 15 years after the discovery of the diamond fields. This is despite the fact that the government and foreign companies are still making billions from their ancestral land.

The latest report by the Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services on the security of minerals: illicit trading in minerals and mineral leakages, revealed that residents of Marange have since resorted to harboring illegal miners to sustain their lives amid a dire economic situation facing the country.

The Committee toured the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company, a diamond mining company wholly owned by the Government of Zimbabwe and Anjin Investments in Marange and interacted with management and employees including those in the security sector.

The Committee noted several positive security initiatives including that the companies had robust security systems at their diamond concessions. Security mechanisms put in place included; CCTVs, drones, perimeter fence and armed security guards with a canine unit.

It was also established that the security standards were in line with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) requirements so that no diamonds could be smuggled from Zimbabwe.

The Committee, however, discovered that the poor Marange community was making a living from offering shelter to illegal diamond miners.

“However, the presence of artisanal diamond miners in the Marange diamond concessions pointed to the prevalence of incidents of smuggling happening outside the diamond concession owned by the two companies,” read the report.

“Representatives of Anjin Investments, ZCDC and the Zimbabwe Republic Police informed the Committee that the major perpetrators of smuggling of diamonds were the mining communities who provided shelter to the illegal miners.

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“Spokespersons for the local community casually admitted that they offered shelter to illegal miners to cushion themselves against the unbearable economic hardships.

“Some even openly expressed their disgruntlement over their debilitating socioeconomic status and pledged to continue harboring illicit diamond mining and trading activities until the State and all responsible authorities took action to improve their wellbeing through community development and related empowerment programmes.”

It was also noted by the Committee that all diamonds recovered by unlicensed miners and traders ultimately evaded the formal diamond value chain, possibly finding their way into Mozambique en-route to Europe and the Arab world.

“The Community further alleged that there were cases of connivance between private mine guards and either licenced miners or underpaid mine employees leading to diamond leakages.

“Furthermore, the Committee observed that full exploration of the Marange area had not been done, as a result, the area remained vulnerable to incidents of smuggling of diamonds.

“MMCZ highlighted that there was a legislative gap to integrate artisanal diamond miners so that all diamonds could be channeled through the formal system.

“In addition to the above loopholes, Civil Society Organisations in the Marange Diamond Community cited the following as contributing to diamond leakages:

“Failure by mining companies to relocate villagers living in diamond concessions;

“Failure to fence off all the mined areas to inhibit access by livestock and unlicenced miners; Security agents were involved in organizing syndicates with unlicensed miners and traders especially in the green zones (Green Zones are low risk areas that occupied by communities and are accessible to all and sundry);

“Acts of collusion between law enforcement agencies and illegal diamond miners and buyers at roadblocks;

“Non-rotation of state security personnel in protected areas and at entry and exit points.”

It was noted that delays in operationalizing the Community Diamond Concession and the five percent equity granted to the Community by the Zimbabwe Diamond Policy has created dissatisfaction amongst villagers, hence they were not willing to assist in curbing diamond leakages.

Failure to implement recommendations emanating from several past visits conducted in Marange by Parliamentary Portfolio Committees, such as the Chindori-Chininga report of 2013 is also worsening the situation.