EASTERN NEWS | Relocated Marange families sing the blues

FAMILIES which were forcibly relocated to Arda-Transau from the diamond-rich Marange fields are bitter over the drastic deterioration of their children’s education standards.

Nearly a quarter of the pupils at Chirasika Primary School, which caters for the settlement, are learning under inhumane conditions.

The pupils, in excess of 1 300, cannot be accommodated in the eight classrooms at the school.

Five years after their displacement, hundreds of children are learning under makeshift sheds and are exposed to harsh weather elements.

The families argue that they were made to leave well-built schools in Chiadzwa by Chinese mining company, Anjin, which built the primary school for the resettled community.

However, the company failed to build more schools for villagers they relocated, forcing the desperate children from across the resettlement to swamp Chirasika, whose grounds are now littered with makeshift classrooms.

The recent closure of the mining companies before they honoured their commitments dealt a major blow to their hopes.

Arda Transau Relocation Area Development Trust chairperson Blessing Mufute told the Eastern News this week that they were now expecting government, which had a 50 percent shareholdings in the shut mining companies, to fulfil the obligations.

“DMC (Diamond Mining Company), Jinan, Kusena and Gye Nyame all did not honour their pledge to build schools for the people they relocated but government, through ZMDC (the Zimbabwe Mining Development Cooperation) had a 50 percent shareholding in each of those companies and should ensure that it honours this obligation,” Mufute said.

Parents of the pupils at the school, through the School Development Committee, have taken it upon themselves to build a two-classroom block to improve the situation.

Still, the additional blocks are not adequate to ease the burden.

“As the community, we are building a classroom block but the pace at which we are going is not appropriate, if we are to consider the welfare of the children. Government and its handling of the mining companies has been a big let down for the relocated families.” Mufute said.

The Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (Zela)’s Tafadzwa Dhlakama said while relocation is inevitable in the wake of a discovery of mineral resources, the quality of life of those being moved must be improved rather than compromised.

“Relocation is inevitable under the current legislation but we are fighting that communities which were displaced because of the discovery of minerals should benefit through having their welfare improved and not be impoverished,” Dhlakama said.

Mutare assistant district administrator Simon Sigauke said while he expects both government and mining companies to assist in contributing to the improvement of infrastructure at the school, the community should take a lead in managing the crisis.

“We acknowledge that the school was never meant to handle the numbers that it is currently dealing with as it was only meant for the Anjin Relocation Area,” he said, suggesting “the best way forward at the present moment is for the school to increase its infrastructure through levying the children it is serving”.

“This is the most practical development model that can bring about the desired results. It’s the only option available at the moment anyway,” Sigauke said.

Manicaland provincial education director Edward Shumba, who came into office after the establishment of the school, said he was not privy to the challenges faced by the resettled community.

“I’ve not had any complaints around the school and I’ve never been there,” he said.

Meanwhile, the families are bitter over government’s delay in exhuming and moving their relatives’ remains, alleging rampant desecration of the tombs by illegal diamond miners.

The families’ concerns come as the artisanal miners are regaining access into the diamond fields due to lax security following consolidation of mining companies in the once high security area.

The diamond fields, which for some time had been sealed off to illegal miners, are again heavily infested by the artisanal miners, who either sneak in or simply bribe their way.

Government has forcibly merged seven gem mining companies that were operating in Chiadzwa to form the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC).

“Our family graveyards are being dug up by desperate panners and we would want government to compel the merged mining company to move our relatives’ remains to more secure sites outside the concessions,” Mufute said.

The relocated families are particularly miffed after receiving information that ZCDC was repairing graves that had been destroyed during extraction, while there were some remains that needed to be reburied.

Chief Zimunya is on record lashing Chinese diamond miners — Anjin and Jinan — for not only desecrating graves during the construction, but stashing the exposed human remains in sacks and throwing them away.

“These are Zimunya people, they are our ancestors,” he charged, before berating government ministers and parliamentarians for their failure to acknowledge traditional rites and authority.

Mutare assistant district administrator Simon Sigauke said they had not yet received any reports of graves being tempered with.

“We have not received any reports to that effect and we will do our best to assist once we have concrete information,” he said.




Quest stuck with ageing workforce

QUEST Motor Corporation’s plant in the eastern border city is facing a manpower crisis because a huge portion of its workforce is approaching retirement age, the Eastern News can reveal.

As a result, the company is frantically holding on to staff past their retirement age to avert a manpower crisis while weighing its options.

With the country’s deepening economic crisis, and Quest unable to operate at optimum levels, it has been difficult for the company to recruit apprentices to learn from the seasoned artisans.

The experienced hands are, however, now battling various ailments that come with old age such as hypertension, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, among others.

Regarding its personnel, Quest boasts on its website that it has always been proud of its staff and the level of qualification they have achieved.

“We not only have in-house training on a regular basis, but our staff are constantly being trained by the various franchises. This is done through sending our staff to regional training seminars or by hands-on training by visiting members of the different franchises. On average, updating of their knowledge in specific areas is carried out at least once a year,” the company says on its website.

“Major training at all levels takes place whenever we launch a new model or new variation of a model.

“This means everyone from the sales rep to the mechanic is fully briefed on the new information.

“In general, Quest launches a new model/variation at least every six months.  By this you can see that our staff are always trained in the latest technology.”

Ironically, the company has been able to increase its vehicle range recently, after surviving a decade-long economic meltdown.

This comes as the complete-knock-down-vehicle-assembler is also facing an uncertain future due to the central bank’s failure to prioritise its electronic payments to Japanese and Chinese kits suppliers.

Mid last year, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, in consultation with captains of industry and commerce, came up with a foreign exchange priority list to guide the apex bank in the disbursement of foreign payments.

The list was meant to promote efficient utilisation of foreign exchange and to re-orient import demand towards productive uses and guide banks in the distribution of foreign currency towards competing demands.

The priority list was broken down into four sections namely Priority One (High), Priority Two (Medium), Priority Three (Low), and Priority Four ( No Priority).

Quest operations manager Carl Fernandez told the Eastern News that their situation was now dire, as they were even failing to pay for kits they have long received, in spite of having the money in their bank account.

“We have been facing serious problems with paying for kits for more than a year. We can’t seem to get our allocation even though we are in Category One,” Fernandez said.

Despite engaging senior government officials and key decision-makers to get around this challenge, including the vice presidents, ministers, parliamentarians and parastatals bosses, he said nothing had changed.

The car assembler is currently producing Chinese vehicle models like Chery Tiggo, Foton and JMC and has recently added Japan’s Mitsubishi with franchise deals for Toyota and Suzuki having already been sealed.

Fernandez said the challenges facing the motor industry have resulted in the country spending over $5,3 billion on car imports since 2009.

He said their efforts to strengthen local industries to raise local inputs supply to 40 percent, as it plans a regional excursion for export markets, was also dead in the water.

The assembly plant is situated in the heart of the Eastern Highlands.

It has been running since 1960 and has to date assembled over 100 000 vehicles of 170 different models.

These have been of a wide variety from passenger vehicles to trucks and tractors.

This has made the plant into a very versatile operation and technology has been continually updated to deal with every new model assembled there.



Illegal water connections rampant

UNCOUTH council employees are making a killing by facilitating illegal water connections in the leafy suburb of Green Side Extension, charging as much as $4 000 per household.

Investigations by the Eastern News revealed this week that while council acquired pipes to connect water to residents in the affluent suburb; bureaucratic slot has delayed getting the precious resource to residents.

This has presented the corrupt city employees with an opportunity to cash-in by illegally connecting the residents to municipal water.

Council has been the ultimate loser because it has not been billing the residents on the assumption that they are yet to get supplies.

So far, 20-plus houses are illegally connected.

The rot only came to light, according to council sources, when town clerk Joshua Maligwa went to meet residents of the new suburb, who were complaining about poor service delivery.

“The irony of it is that the residents who benefited from the corrupt dealings unwittingly exposed the issue to the town clerk as they complained about service delivery. When they realised that they had let the cat out of the bag, they then tried to plead with the town clerk not to pursue the issue after he queried how they were connected to water unofficially,” the source said.

Maligwa, could neither deny nor confirm the latest scandal.

“I can only confirm that we are investigating that issue...,” he said.

Last week, Eastern News reported that council was suffering major financial losses due to corrupt employees who are operating private companies through fronts that would siphon money from the municipality through inflated invoices.

Maligwa, who assumed duty as town clerk this year, is under pressure to clean the mess.

Council employees had become lazy due to poor supervision with others failing to meet their deadlines.

It has since dawned on the new town clerk that council supervisors were focussing on their personal projects during working hours instead of supervising their subordinates.

Maligwa said this was no longer the case.

He said: “Deadlines were not part of the vocabulary when I got here and I now demand to have a time-frame for any work that is being carried out”.




Mental patients enjoying sex in hospital

ZIMBABWEANS are currently immersed in huge debate over whether prisoners should have access to their partners in order to quench their sexual appetites.

But how many ever thought about the sexual desires of institutionalised mental health patients?

Rukariro Rehabilitation Centre has taken a revolutionary approach to human rights by not prohibiting mental health patients from engaging in sexual relationships amongst themselves.

The centre’s matron, Everjoice Musasa, told the Eastern News that their only concern was to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

“Aren’t they humans with feelings like everyone else? I just make sure that all my girls are on a contraceptive method at all times,” she said.

In spite of how romantically involved they may be, patients cannot have it as if they are in a solemnised union.

They are therefore prohibited from cohabiting in the mental asylum.

While steps are taken to prevent unwanted pregnancies, mistakes have happened before, and a baby was even born.

“I heard news of the pregnancy when I was attending a workshop and I was shocked. The girl was actually HIV positive and I feared that her partner could have contracted the infection in the process,” Musasa said, adding that the girl was infected by the virus when she was raped before checking into the institution.

She is on antiretroviral therapy and is the only such patient at the institution.

“...we managed her pregnancy and enrolled her into a mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention programme and the she delivered a healthy baby girl,” the matron said.

It appears that while the subject appears to be taboo, particularly among the mentally ill, Musasa is convinced that this is a right that every human being must enjoy.

She, however, was wary of men who often prey on mental health patients and in some instances impregnate them.

“Patients who are not in institutions are particularly vulnerable to abuse by men. All these children you see here are a result of such abusive relationships,” Musasa said.

Although Rukariro is listed among the country’s psychiatric centres, it hardly receives any government support.

It is currently in a deplorable state.

Musasa, assisted by nurse aide Elizabeth Gopo and her husband, has manned the institution for over 12 years.

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