20 June 2014

Zimbabwe: Displaced Marange Villagers Starve As Miners Scoot

Photo: Denford Magora
The reddish-coloured diamonds of Marange in Zimbabwe

DISPLACED Marange villagers running into tens of thousands are up in arms with diamond mining firms which sponsored their relocation 2011 after they reportedly absconded on pledges to pay for their water needs as well as chip in with food aid.

It has emerged the desperate villagers were now sharing unclean water with their livestock after the mining firms started backtracking on pledges to bankroll their water supplies.

Those who have a choice have instead dug down into their shallow pockets to pay for water and buy food.

Government's water utility, Zinwa stopped water supplies to their new homes between November 2013 and April 2014 for non-payment of bills.

Among the diamond mining firms which made the pledge to take care of the former land owners were Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Company, Mbada Diamonds, Anjin Investment and Jinan Mining.

The firms sponsored the controversial 2011 relocation exercise that rendered Chiadzwa exclusive to mining activities.

Reneged on food promises

The companies promised to give villagers food supplies after every three months and further pledged to assist the displaced villagers set up income generating projects, something that was intended to wean them in the long run.

The food supplies would comprise of 12 litres of cooking oil, 150kgs of mealie meal, 18kgs of sugar, 3kgs of salt, 15kgs of carpenter, and two bars of soap.

Anjin only handed over the foodstuffs twice while Jinan only provided the supplies once since the relocation in 2011. Mbada last supplied the food relief in October last year while DMC last offered on October 12, 2013.

The villagers were also entitled to an undisclosed compensation package but they only received a mere $1,000 as disturbance allowances.

The miners pledged to cover the whole compensation packages once the full relocation exercise was complete.

But a recent enquiry into the matter by NewZimbabwe.com revealed that nothing had been fulfilled.

Against this background, relocated villagers from Mbada, Anjin, Diamond Mining Company (DMC), Marange Resources were forced to form Arda Transau Relocation Development Trust (ATRDT) to fight for their rights as a united front.

Compensation not paid

Water was reconnected after ATRDT engaged the water authority and devised a new system whereby they were going to settle their own bills.

ATRDT chairman Cephas Gwayagwaya who is also a representative of Anjin Investment settlement confirmed that tough times lay ahead of villagers as the mining companies turned a blind eye on them.

He told journalists in Mutare on Tuesday that they decided to fight as a united front after realising their cause had been hijacked by "bogus" Harare organisations that took advantage of their plight.

"As I speak, women and children are going for days on empty stomachs," he said.

"People are suffering from malnutrition. There is no source of income here in Arda. We are unemployed.

"We are now paying for our water. But the challenge is that we don't have the money to do so, people are broke here," said Gwayagwaya.

Gwayagwaya added that Anjin destroyed an old school that was in the area and rebuilt it. And yet still the learning environment remained out of standard.

"Children are learning without desks and are crammed since there are only two schools. Mbada recently refurbished a school under their settlement.

Not enough schools

They actually added four blocks at Wellington School but it's not enough to cater for all the kids," he said.

ATRDT vice chair Clara Magobeya who represents the DMC relocated, said villagers have fallen on hard times.

She said there was no business to talk of in Arda as everyone is virtually poor and unemployed.

"Whom do you sell your wares to if everyone is broke? Women here are most affected and they are selling firewood to make ends meet," said Magobeya.

ATRDT board member Caiphas Mujuru said their life had changed for the worse after the relocation exercise in 2011.

"Things have gone bad for us. When we were located to Arda, we thought our lives would improve for the better," said Mujuru, adding that government had failed in playing its part too.

Minister of State for Provincial Affairs in Manicaland, Chris Mushohwe also confirmed that villagers had their water supplies cut by Zinwa after Anjin failed to settle a bill.

He did not have kind words for the mining firms for reneging on their pledges to establish an irrigation scheme in Arda.

Mushohwe briefed Vice President Joice Mujuru recently when she toured Mutare that he was not happy with the way mining firms were treating former Marange villagers.

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