Chiadzwa villagers cry foul

MUTARE - Traditional chiefs in Mutare recently, got a battering from villagers who accused them of benefitting from diamond explorations while they continue to wallow in poverty and see their rights trampled upon.

Villager after villager accused the local traditional leadership of neglecting them during a “provincial alternative mining indaba of benefiting from diamond operations, excluding the wider community”.

Villagers said headmen Mukwada and Chiadzwa as well as the acting Chief Marange all had mansions built for them by diamond firms apart from receiving Toyota Vigo vehicles.

One villager said some of the mansions built for the traditional leaders could be envied by “top world leaders” such as US President Barack Obama and President Robert Mugabe.

Council of Chiefs’ President and Senator Chief Fortune Charumbira defended the donations saying there was nothing wrong in chiefs getting a mansion built for them.

“But mining companies also need to extend their work to benefit the wider community,” he said. “Building a house and donating a vehicle to Chief Marange was very good, hence worth celebrating by the community.

“I do not see anything wrong with that unless if you were saying he is converting to personal use that which should have been given to the community.”

Chief Marange said at the meeting that he was not receiving anything more from the miners apart from the house and vehicle both which he had not solicited for.

He said he made a living as a beef supplier to Montana Meats and Africa University.

The chief drew laughter after he disclosed that Marange Resources only paid him $30 as a traditional community entry fee, but said if someone were to pay more, he would not turn such an offer down.

Marange community has been critical of diamond mining companies after they defaulted on their pledges to the Zimunya-Marange Community Share Ownership Trust (CSOT) which they had hoped would improve their rural infrastructure and service delivery.

Chief Marange however, said the CSOT received $400 000 in June last year and they had now been oriented on how to manage the resources.

He told the indaba that they have allocated $5 000 each to the 36 wards in Zimunya-Marange, while each of the three constituencies had $20 000 allocated.

He added that they have also completely revamped the sewage system at Marange District Hospital from the fund.

During the gathering, Zimunya villagers expressed disgust at the desecration of graves by mining companies as they constructed houses for people displaced by diamond operations.
Chief Zimunya said he was never consulted on the resettlement process.

“That place they built houses had graves which were dug out and skeletons lie bare,” he said.

“Traditional procedures on the settlement of communities coming from a different chieftainship were not followed as I just woke up to hear of the resettlement exercise which has to date never been traditionally formalised.”

Chief Marange also reported that he was never informed of the intention to move his subjects to where they had been resettled.

During the heated meeting, Environment, Water, Tourism and Hospitality Industry parliamentary portfolio committee chairperson Annastacia Ndhlovu blasted Environmental Management Agency (EMA), describing the authority as a “toothless bulldog.”

There were also concerns raised by the communities on why EMA approved the resettling of people on riverbeds in Arda-Transau.

She said EMA did nothing about the violation of the Mines and Minerals Act that outlaws mining and prospecting within 400m of homesteads in Chiadzwa

“EMA is a toothless bulldog, haina meno ichokwadi. Yakangoita sezvanga zvakaita League of Nations. Inongo hukura nekuhukura (EMA is indeed a toothless bulldog. It’s just like what the League of Nations used to be like. It just barks and barks),” Ndhlovu told the gathering.

A villager said: “During the rainy season, some kitchens are flooded with water while some of the houses’ foundations are sinking, tearing the walls,” said one villager.

Kingstone Chitotombe, EMA Manicaland provincial manager,  promised to probe reports that resettled villagers’ houses were built in riverbeds, particularly in the Anjin Resettlement Area.

Chitotombe absolved EMA over the violation of the Mines and Minerals Act, referring the concerns to the ministry of Local Government which he said was responsible for resettling people.

“Chinese-owned firm Jinan is mining even less than 100m from some homesteads,” Chiadzwa Community Development Trust (CCDT) board chairperson Ben Matambudze told the meeting.

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