Poverty rife in diamond-rich Marange
A UNITED States-based non-profit conservation and environmental science organisation, Mongabay, has revealed fresh details into the deepening poverty that is engulfing relocated communities in Marange, 14 years after locals were promised homes, electricity, water, water, employment, social services, as well as compensation by the government working with diamond-mining companies in the area.
The organisation, which made a follow-up investigation to its findings on the situation that obtained in Marange in 2016, revealed in its latest report that the affected villagers moved to pave way for the diamond mining are yet to get full benefits of the discovery of the gems in their backyards.
The latest Mongabay report, released on Monday this week, is titled: Broken Houses and Promises: Residents Still in Poverty Near Massive Diamond Project.
Part of the report reads: “More than 14 years since the discovery of the Marange diamond fields, one of the world’s largest diamond-producing projects, relocated residents and locals living near the mines are still living in poverty.”
The organisation also blamed President Emmerson Mnangagwa for the mess in Marange.
“Previously, foreign companies in Zimbabwe had to either give the majority of their shares to locals or divest money into community trusts. However, this promise has fallen short since current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, reversed the law,” said Mongabay.
The organisation revealed the dire situation at Arda Transau in Eastern Zimbabwe, where some families from Marange were relocated.
Across the 567-kilometre-wide terrain of diamond fields and mines, known as Marange, that have sold at least 76 million carats of diamonds since 2010, according to Mongabay, the government’s promises of housing and compensation have not yet been settled.
After the precious stones were discovered, more than 35 000 people moved to the area to dig and pan as artisanal miners or buy and sell the gems along with foreign companies.
In November 2008, the Zimbabwean government controversially took control of the Chiadzwa diamond field. However, according to Mongabay, poverty is stinking in Marange.
Mongabay noted that there is current high security in the Marange area but behind it are untold abuses.
“Security is tight but poverty in nearby communities drives many to attempt to break in and pan for diamonds illegally. Those caught risk beatings and torture by government and mine security forces,” reads part of the report.
Mongabay also said during Operation Hakudzokwi, which aimed to end artisanal mining deemed illegal, over 200 people were killed when military helicopters fired on diamond panners from the air.
The organisation said some people were later “buried in mass graves using bulldozers”, according to testimonies made available to Mongabay by human rights organisations.
The Indigenisation and Empowerment Act of 2010 stipulated that all foreign companies with over US$500 000 in assets must either sell or cede 51% of their shares to Zimbabweans in order to give control back to local people. As part of divesting 51% to Zimbabweans, foreign-owned companies could cede 10% in shares to community trusts.
The five companies which controlled the concession at the time — Marange Resources, Anjin Mining Investments, Jinan Mining, Mbada Diamonds, and the Lebanese private company Diamond Mining Corporation — promised to transfer US$10 million each into a community trust.
However, a meagre US$400 000 was subsequently deposited into the Marange Community ownership share trust.
Part of Mongabay’s findings read: “The government and mining companies promised homes, electricity, water, employment, social services and compensation, but residents and civil society organisations say they have still not received many of these promises since Mongabay last reported on the project in 2016.
“According to a Parliamentary report in 2016, Mbada Diamonds and Marange Resources were the only mines that put money into the trust, with only US$400 000 deposited. Local media had reported two years earlier that some of this money had been spent on allowances to board members and travelling costs.”
The environmental organisation noted that the government and Anjin Mining Investments promised the relocated families jobs in the mines, three-bedroom homes, electricity, running water, tarred roads, half a hectare (about 1.2 acres) of land with irrigation systems, schools, a clinic, seeds, fertilizer and food delivery every three months.
The families, previously farmers and dependent on the land for their livestock, were also to receive help starting piggeries.
“However, soon after they moved in, the walls in the new homes in Arda Transau began cracking. Water supply became irregular, the irrigation systems did not materialise and the families were paid US$1 000 as a relocation allowance — an amount many relocated people say is too little for the assets, homes, land and lifestyle they lost,” reads the report.
Twelve years later, the situation has worsened considerably, James Mupfumi, the director of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), told Mongabay researchers.
“These houses were a rushed project done by the company without involving the department of public works, who inspects houses to make sure they are up to standard. Schools were built as promised, but they were not big enough to accommodate all the children who were moved there,” said Mupfumi.
The US organisation also found out that Marange families left behind five hectares (12 acres) of communal grazing land near rivers and baobab trees whose fiber they had used to make rugs to sell, and were compelled to live in small houses on dry and arid individual plots that could not sustain crops or raise livestock.
Their original homes had 8 to 12 rooms and rondavels (traditional huts) to accommodate large families and relatives. Mongabay said according to Newman Chiadzwa, chairperson of the Chiadzwa Community Development Trust (CCDT), the value of the homesteads villagers were forced to leave ranged from US$60 000 to US$200 000 depending on their size, but no compensation equivalent to that was made.