Community protests over Marange diamond

HARARE - Community members in the Marange diamond mining area have held protests against lack of transparency and accountability in the mining activities of firms operating in the area.

This comes after Mines minister Obert Mpofu’s June announcement that Zimbabwe approved its Diamond Policy at the height of accountability concerns, but the new legislation will not guarantee full disclosure as a sanction busting mechanism.

The precious stones were this year expected to contribute 18 percent of the country’s $4 billion cash budget, but it had to be revised downwards to $3,4 while economic growth forecast of 9,4 percent in 2012 also had to be revised to 5,6 percent on account of poor revenues trickling from the Marange miners.

On Friday, people living in the diamond rich area took up banners and marched against what they said was greed and corruption in the allocation of claims in Marange, lack of transparency and the exclusion of some stakeholders in the recently launched Community Share-ownership Trust.

Chiadzwa Community Development Trust (CCDT), a local pressure group, organised the protests.

“The community said there is lack of community consultation in the issues surrounding the Marange-Zimunya Community Share-ownership Trust, air and noise pollution for the villagers staying in the diamond fields, politicisation of Marange diamonds, community rights violations and unemployment,” CCDT programmes manager Melanie Chiponda said.

“The community is worried about the high levels of poverty in the area resulting from the seizure of their fields by diamond mining companies and the closure of businesses in the diamond fields which has deprived them of their livelihoods,” she added.

She said the community has been reduced to beggars as they have to depend on food hand-outs from mining companies.

Some of the diamond mining companies are said to be shunning locals.

“The mining companies refuse to give them (locals) jobs in the mines calling them illegal miners. Unemployment in Marange is very high but there are diamond mining companies employing thousands of people. The mining companies prefer to employ people from other areas side-lining the Marange community,” said Chiponda.

Because mining companies are carrying out activities when people are still staying in the area, excessive dust is affecting residents since there are no tarred roads in the diamond fields, resulting in an increase in lung infections.

“The noise from blasting is unbearable and houses are cracking as a result of the blasting,” said Chiponda.

Zimbabwe Environmental Association’s July research into the water quality from Odzi and Save rivers showed that Marange diamond miners were polluting water and posing a health scare to the community which depends on the rivers.

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