MAC: Mines and Communities

Relocated Chiadzwa villagers: a tale of false promises - Zimbabwe

Published by MAC on 2011-03-14
Source: The Zimbabwean (2011-02-13)

A new report from Zimbabwe records that its mining sector had, by December 2010, contributed about  65% of total national exports for the country. *

However, says the report: "What is clear...is that most minerals are being extracted for the benefit of a few politically and economically connected individuals to feed their insatiable markets with raw ma terials".

This situation is nowhere more self-evident than in the case of thousands of villagers sacrificed on the altar of diamond exploitation at Chiadzwa. See earlier story: Zimbabwe meets diamond trade standards - monitor

* Go here to access the recent well-documented report

Relocated Chiadzwa villagers: a tale of false promises

By Tony Saxon

The Zimbabwean

13 February 2011

Zanu (PF) authorities led by the illegal governor of Manicaland, Chris Mushowe, last year promised villagers, who had been relocated from their homes in diamond-rich Chiadzwa to ARDA Transau in Odzi, a better life. But nine months down the line, the villagers say they are living in hell.

They were promised decent accommodation, proper health and educational facilities among other basic necessities, but there is nothing like this. ARDA Transau was to be regarded as The China City, with everything from lights, nice road network, schools, clinics and shops, but the villagers say all these were empty promises. The Zanu (PF) authorities also told them that they were considering giving them small-scale mining licenses. But nothing has materialised and they are living in abject poverty. "

As you can see, we were just dumped here. We never thought we would end up living like this. They forced us to vacate our ancestral land and only to dump us like this. What wrong have we done?," said an emotional David Buwerimwe, one of the relocated villagers and a respected elder. Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu told the villagers that their relocation would pave way for "proper mining" of the precious gems and that they would live improved lives in the new area.

The forced relocation has created room for the Zanu (PF) elite and senior officers in the security forces to feed off the diamond reserves while civil servants struggle to get decent salaries. The villagers were given $1000 per family from a Chinese mining company Anjin as compensation fee, an amount the villagers said was a mockery of their social standing.

"What will we do with $1000? They do not even care about us. Zanu (PF) has failed us. I left all my livestock in Chiadzwa and other wealth and only to dump my family here. My family was happy when we were in Chiadzwa. There were a lot of opportunities and we made some money there, but these people (Zanu PF) want to benefit at the expense of the innocent people of Chiadzwa," said Farai Shundure another relocated villager.
ARDA Transau spans 12 000 hectares and runs along the Odzi River.

The farm was a highly productive farming area, under irrigation, and was divided into grazing and farming zones that produced much for Manicaland and the whole country.

But Zanu (PF) top officials including Mushowe, Mike Nyambuya, Munacho Mutezo and Didymus Mutasa, among others, looted various properties and stripped the whole farm of its potential, until it was non-functional. "We were given verbal eviction orders by heavily armed police and soldiers. There are fears of serious outbreak of diseases at the farm as there are no mechanisms that have been put in place for the expected influx of people," said Buwerimwe.

The irate villagers also argue that the relocation process was not conducted in a transparent manner.

"It seems that all those who were suspected to be MDC supporters were the ones who were targeted. They are punishing us for supporting Morgan Tsvangirai. Had this area a Zanu (PF) stronghold I don't think they would have relocated us," said Buwerimwe.

"It is against our culture to force people to move out from their ancestral land. This was a very wrong move that will have serious traditional repercussions. Nothing has been built in Odzi, there are no proper pastures for our livestock, schools and clinics are very far away. The nearest clinic is about 10 kilometres away," said headman Chirasika.

The traditional leaders are also accusing Anjin of operating without conducting an environmental impact assessment. "Everyone had found something life-changing to do in diamond panning. But now it's back to square one. These Chinese companies hardly employ people from here. All their operations are highly mechanised, there is nothing left for us and my people are starving," said headman Chirasika.

"The discovery of diamonds in our area should have been a blessing not a curse. As traditional leaders we are calling for a stake in any deals that the government negotiates with private investors over the exploitation of diamonds," he added.

Farai Maguwu, the director for Centre Research and Development, said the relocation was a humanitarian case that calls for urgent intervention by NGOs. "There is urgent need to avert the impending starvation among the relocated families and to ensure that they get plots to farm before hunger set in," said Maguwu. He added that the $1000 relocation compensation was inadequate.

"It is high time that the government and humanitarian agencies worked together and try to avert suffering on the part of the relocated families. It is a sad situation as they were only given a place to stay without any source of livelihood," explained Maguwu.
The villagers were assured that they would get first preference in securing jobs created by the discovery of the diamonds, but as it stands right now, not even one person from the relocated villagers has secured one.

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