Chiadzwa locals demand diamond share
TENSIONS are still rising in the Chiadzwa diamond-rich fields, with community members and civil society demanding transparency in the disbursement of royalties by the government and mining companies to the local community.
According to the Zimbabwe Diamond Policy (ZDC), which governs the extraction of the precious mineral, companies in the extractive industry are supposed to give 5% of their profits to the community for developmental purposes.
State-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) and Chinese company Anjin have been operating in the area.
The government, through the army, also has shares in Anjin. The ZCDC has previously been mired in scandal, raising questions about issyes of transparency and accountability. The company failed to account for the use of money exceeding US$400 million, and could not properly account for 352 583.11 carats of diamonds worth US$146 million that were in stock, according to the 2019 Auditor-General’s report.
Civil society has been pushing for the government to facilitate the disbursement of mining royalties, without success, which they say is stalling development in the area. In November, civil society organisations asked a Zimbabwean court to overturn a ban on their protest against the failure by diamond mining companies to share proceeds from the exploitation of diamonds in their area. The demonstration was on two occasions banned by police officer commanding Mutare Rural, a heavyhanded move which has continued to rile villagers.
“When they refused us permission to demonstrate, we went on to the courts seeking permission to exercise our rights as citizens. Then, we were helped by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Hu man Rights. They also maintained their position through the ministry of Home Affairs (ZRP). “They said that since Chiadzwa is a protected area, they cannot allow the demonstration,” said Cosmas Sunguro, the Zimbabwe Diamond Workers’ Union president.
Sunguro says the companies have not been transparently declaring their diamond earnings, which is making it difficult for community members to benefit from the 5% retention fund.
“They are not supposed to pay villagers, but it is like a royalty that is determined by the production that would have been done.
“When the companies sell, they should also come out clean and declare their profit dividends. The problem is that the information is not readily available. We have to find the information via other institutions. So, we will not be knowing how much has been produced and so forth. “When there is extractive activity, there should be evidence of some development, be it infrastructural, educational, health and so forth. The development should be visible. It is not like we want our roads to be tarred only, but can people stand and say there is employment which can sustain their families? “So, when people are crying, it is not like they are crying foul for nothing. What are we benefitting? Do we have things that we can point at?” Sunguro said.
Sunguro said the government has not been transparent in disclosing information pertaining to earnings, which has brewed more problems for the villagers.
“It is not always about companies. It is about the state failing to release money from the companies. Anjin is not wholly owned by the state, but the state still has some shares. Government, through the Zimbabwe Mineral Development Corporation (ZMDC) also knows how much is being realised from the diamonds, which should be going to the communities.
“Some of the money should also go to the local authorities. If council would be given the money, they will then know where the money should be allocated,” he said.
A Chiadzwa community member, Lloyd Banda, said the government and the companies have been insincere in ensuring development in Chiadzwa.
“There is not much development in Chiadzwa. That I can testify. In terms of education, they are sending students to school. In some instances, they pay tuition for one or two students up to tertiary to tertiary education, but that is not what the people will be expecting at all. It is like a cosmetic corporate social responsibility,” he said.