New Zimbabwe (London)

17 March 2014

Zimbabwe: Shut Down Chiadzwa - Civic Society Groups

CIVIL society groups in Manicaland have demanded the immediate cessation of diamond mining operations in Marange to pave way for an independent and comprehensive audit of all companies operating there, whose findings must also be made public.

The groups said they were appalled that government has, for the past six years, parcelled out and shared such a strategic national resource to individuals and fly-by night investors in deals that have not helped the country's struggling economy or communities around the diamond-rich area.

"It also dampens our spirit to realize that government ... covertly parcelled out national resources to negative entities who have no interest in the socio-economic upliftment of the Zimbabwean people," reads a joint statement released in Mutare Monday by Centre for Research and Development (CRD), Zimbabwe Natural Resources Dialogue Forum (ZNRDF) and Marange Development Trust (MDT).

The call comes at a time government has also publicly vented its frustration on the miniscule revenues remitted to Treasury from Marange with Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa recently saying the number of companies at Marange would be reduced from the current six or so to about two.

It has also been revealed that a local community share trust has seen very little of the $50 million the companies were expected to have donated to the scheme with the firms now denying ever making such pledges.

Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa last week warned that the government could force all the companies operating at Marange out of the area.

"If the footprint in Marange is 10 to 15 percent gem and if you come to me and say 'No, we just found two percent gem,' you are out.

"We don't need you in Zimbabwe because you are deviating from the footprint and we know it's deliberately happening. We have lost a lot of our diamonds," Chidhakwa said during an address to officers at Zimbabwe Staff College in Harare.

Meanwhile, acting CRD Director James Mupfumi said the potential of Marange diamonds to help resuscitate the country's ailing economy and uplift the living standards of vulnerable communities had been stifled through well-calculated and deliberate practices by responsible authorities in government.

He added that the vilification of civil society groups working in the extractive sector by government functionaries was regrettable and unhelpful.

"However, this has not distracted people from realising that only few individuals, none from the local communities, are benefitting from Marange diamond proceeds," said Mupfumi.

The outcry by civic society follows claims of resource depletion in Marange by companies operating there at a time concerns about environmental degradation and human rights violations which saw the displacements of local communities without alternative livelihoods have not been addressed.

"The possibility that we may be part of a generation that has failed to manage our natural resources for the next generation is imminent and responsible authorities in government must now roll their heads in shame," said Mupfumi.

Civic society, the CRD director said, was perplexed by government's failure as a major shareholder in the mining ventures to take decisive action and end the haemorrhage in the Marange diamond field.

"Civic society has been calling for government to review mining contracts for companies mining in Marange for the past six years in order to stop natural resource plunder and promote sustainable mining but was largely ignored," he said.

Zimbabwe Natural Resources Dialogue Forum Director Freeman Bhoso also challenged government to immediately take corrective action to address commitments that were not fulfilled by mining companies to affected communities including relocated families to Arda Transau.

He said there were a lot of gaps in terms of legislation which companies and individuals were exploiting to their advantage.

"There is need to revisit the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act on Community Share ownership Schemes to plug the existing gaps and loopholes that mining companies have been exploiting to subvert their obligations and compliance," said Bhoso.

The civil society organisations also urged the government to ensure that any new mining venture in Marange undertakes a human rights impact assessment first in order to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for any adverse human rights impact.

There was also a need to harmonise the roles of ministry of mines and indigenisation to avoid inconsistences and overlap of responsibilities which impact negatively on local communities.

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