VILLAGERS in the Chiadzwa area of Manicaland province this week clashed with soldiers and police officers manning the Marange diamond fields.
The confrontation erupted at Chingome Business Centre after which a former Zanu PF councillor and 10 others were arrested, as tension between villagers and security officials continues to rise.
Chiadzwa residents are angry and have been protesting over the looting of diamonds and mismanagement of mining proceeds. The frustrated locals have increasingly adopted a more proactive grassroots approach in voicing theur concerns.
The villagers insist they have not benefited from diamonds being mined in their area and are also unhappy about local travel restrictions imposed by the government.
Those arrested were former councillor Daniel Nyazika (64), his wife Midia Nyazika (55), as well as children Tinashe Nyazika (35), Mike Nyazika (35), Gift Nyazika (31) and seven villagers comprising Crispen Mashande (33), Neyemai Chibuwe (32), Manuel Zvirimumoyo (32), Darlington Mwarumba (20), Albert Mudzimwa (18) and Michael Chidzungu.
They were detained at Bambazonke Police Station and charged with defeating or obstructing the course of justice as defined in section 184 (1) (b) of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act (Chapter 9:23).
The charge sheet reads: “On the 16th of January 2023 and at Nyazika Bottle Store, Chingome Business Centre, Chiadzwa, Chief Marange, the accused teamed up and challenged Joint Operations Committee officers from ZNA (Zimbabwe National Army) and ZRP (Zimbabwe Republic Police) stationed at the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company who are on operation to secure the diamonds fields.
“The JOC officers had arrested 32 illegal diamond panners in accused one’s shop.
Accused one confronted the officers and ordered them to release the arrested illegal diamond panners or was going to assault them.
“Accused one mobilized accused 2-11 to assault the officers. The accused person picked stones and pelted the security forces resulting in the injury of two officers. The accused’s actions led to the escape of the 32 illegal panners.”
The police also said they recovered stones and sticks which the accused used to attack the officers and they will be produced in court.
The NewsHawks gathered that the accused persons were later rescued by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights’ Peggy Tavagadza and Kelvin Kabaya who secured ZW$10 000 bail for each of them, which was granted by Mutare magistrate Richard Ramaboea.
During the skirmishes, residents of Chiadzwa who were at the business centre were indiscriminately assaulted by the security forces who sought to arrest the 11 accused persons, resulting in damage to property.
Nyazika’s bottle store was ransacked and goods allegedly looted by some state security services.
In the past, civil society organisations working in Chiadzwa like the Centre for Research and Development (CRD) have red-flagged state security agents over human rights abuses in the now highly protected area.
In the latest case, CRD posted a video on Twitter of a badly damaged vehicle belonging to former councillor Nyazika and said it was smashed by state security agents during the raid on the accused persons.
“According to Mr Nyazika one of the soldiers cocked his gun and threatened to shoot him when he approached the military guy seeking clarification on what they wanted at his shop. Several other locals were also arrested and accused of defeating the course of justice,” read an accompanying post from CRD on Twitter.
Last year, CRD recorded gory incidences of Chiadzwa villagers with broken limbs, swollen faces and other serious injuries attributed to the abuses of state security agents in the area.
On the other hand, the locals continue to cry foul over lack of socio-economic development in the diamond-rich area where poverty is ironically rife among ordinary citizens and tension is mounting because the government has failed to fulfil promises to them after they were relocated from their ancestral homes to pave way for the mining of gems.
The disturbances in Chiadzwa and human rights onslaught on defenceless civilians by state security agents come at a time when Zimbabwe last year assumed the post of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme chair. The international body is strongly against human rights abuses in diamond-mining areas.