Marange — A Chinese diamond company, Anjin Investment, which resumed operations early this year, has publicly apologised to Headman Chiadzwa for resuming operations here without a paying courtesy call to the traditional leader first.
Speaking at Headman Chiadzwa compound last week during a visit by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development led by Edmond Mukaratigwa, Anjin human resources manager Amon Mhlanga admitted since their return to the diamond-rich fields they did not pay a courtesy call to the traditional leader as per traditional protocols.
"We would like to apologise to Headman Chiadzwa for our failure to pay a courtesy call when we came back to mine in his area. We are very sorry and we admit that we erred. We did not follow the protocol to visit the headman and advise him of our presence in his area," said Mhlanga.
Present at Headman Chiadzwa's homestead were community-based, and civil society organisations among other stakeholders.
Mhlanga was also at pains to convince the community that their company was no longer involved in human rights violations.
"We know there are legacy issues but we promise you to resolve some of the outstanding issues. Our company is not yet financial strong like ZCDC (Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company). We are still trying to make things work but definitely, we will attend to community issues."
He promised to engage his Chinese counterparts on the issue of respecting local cultures and observing human rights.
Anjin is a joint venture between a Chinese company, Anhui Foreign Economic Construction, and Matt Bronze Enterprises, which was formed by Zimbabwe's Defence Ministry and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF).
Anjin operated in Chiadzwa from 2009 to 2016 before the government revoked licences of all diamond companies operating in Chiadzwa leading to the formation of the Zimbabwe Consolidation Diamond Company (ZCDC).
However, the villagers who attended the meeting had no kind words for the diamond mining firms operating in Chiadzwa accusing them, especially Chinese nationals of ill-treating them.
"Look we have been gathered here since afternoon together with our headman and we are waiting to be addressed by visitors who will come probably midnight. This is our area and we can't be given that treatment by these people who are smuggling our resources for their own benefit. This is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated," one irate villager said.
"We convene regular meetings at this chief's court and deliberate on the same issues. I think our position papers are being used as toilet papers because nothing is solved at the end," added another villager.
Amalgamated Chiadzwa Development Communities Trust (ACDCT), Marange Chapter chairperson Jay Kasakara said although the local communities were given opportunities to air their grievances such as human rights abuses by mining firms, the country's laws to protect the citizens were weak.
"We can write truckloads of grievances but in the absence of a strong legal framework and good policies to defend the communities, we are moving in circles. The communities were benefiting through Indigenisation and Empowerment policy which was availing funds through Share Community Ownership Trusts but it was scrapped off. The communities are no longer getting any revenue from the mineral proceeds," Kasakara said.
"The Mines and Mineral Act should be amended to address issues of relocation and rehabilitation of the land. Many challenges impacting the communities will be resolved through the amendment."
Centre for Research and Development (CRD) director James Mupfumi accused the Executive of shelving the Mines and Minerals Bill for personal gains.
"The present Mines and Mineral Act is extractive and does not recognise citizen rights. The Rural District Councils Act and Traditional Leaders Act do not empower duty bearers with custody of their resources," said Mupfumi.
He said the failure by the government to legislate devolution and transfer powers to local authorities had rendered community development dysfunctional.