EASTERN NEWS | Chiadzwa villagers remain disillusioned

MUTARE - Chiadzwa villagers remain disillusioned and without hope that proposed reforms in militarised diamond fields will come to fruition.

Villagers drawn from wards 29 and 30, at the epicentre of Marange diamond fields, who gathered at Mukwada Clinic last Saturday for a Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) all-stakeholder security diamond conference feedback meeting organised by the Centre for Research and Development (CRD) claimed they were in prisoner status and still enduring abuses.

Many felt that they had better chances of having their rights enforced if the diamonds were being mined by private investors and not government-owned entities, arguing that the use of the military in securing the diamond area had completely emasculated them.

“There is a sustained operation of harassment and abuse of villagers by State security agencies controlling diamond mining. We have been made prisoners in our ancestral land and our rights have been suspended.

“Our rights are now owned by the ‘brigadiers’ who are powerful and a law unto themselves. Nothing will accrue to us if these brigadiers are not removed from Marange,” Hardwork Gamunorwa, a local villager said.

Other villagers alleged that State security personnel who are deployed in the fields quickly assume control of illegal diamond syndicates and lack respect for local leadership.

Some villagers from Kusena and Tinoengana scoffed at the assertion that ZCDC was attending to their immediate developmental needs when they are fighting relocations.

In his appraisal of the diamond feedback meeting, CRD director James Mupfumi highlighted that government’s commitment to balance business and human rights will be tested in the proposed diamond bill that it will announce.

He bemoaned the snail’s pace move by government to introduce a devolution bill that will ensure that communities retain revenue from diamond mining.

He highlighted that it was painful to realise that the ZCDC business model considers community development as “social corporate responsibility” when in actual fact communities are supposed to be partners in diamond mining.

He also called for an expanded Zimunya Marange Community Share Ownership Trust (CSOT) that is inclusive for communities to make their decisions on shares remitted by ZCDC.

There are concerns that people relocated to Arda Transau in Odzi may not be accommodated in the Zimunya Marange CSOT.

He also added that the ZCDC CEO’s announcement that the mining firm was working on formalising artisanal miners in Marange was long overdue and government must ensure that the new policy frameworks regularise their operations.

“There are real concerns that the local community may be beaten to it by more organised associations from other regions so the locals would need assistance if they are to take advantage of this opportunity,” Mupfumi said.


Chisumbanje land dispute drags on

MUTARE - The Chisumbanje land dispute, pitting villagers against Green Fuel, Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda) and Chipinge Rural District Council that has been going on since 2008, is dragging on into an unknown future.

The matter is failing to resolve itself due to the ethanol production business model and conflicting interests of government as an investor which is making it renege on its duties in the protection of people’s rights.

Villagers in Chisumbanje and Chinyamukwakwa have been bearing the brunt of the complex mix of issues and business.

Platform for Youth Development (PYD) director Claris Madhuku told a Transparency International land conference recently that “despite stakeholders raising genuine and serious concerns to treat the land dispute with urgency, most of the effort has been in futility” due to a failure of government to prioritise its resolution.

“Green Fuel, Arda and the Government of Zimbabwe entered into a marriage of convenience that now complicates their jurisdictions and responsibilities which remains guided more by the politics of the business than the other way around,” Madhuku said.

It has directly affected 1 754 households — 1 060 from Chisumbanje and 694 from Chinyamukwakwa, he says.

The project is growing sugarcane for ethanol in Chisumbanje and at Middle Sabi and is scheduled to use 10 000 hectares of land from Middle Sabi and 45 000 hectares from Chisumbanje when fully operational by 2020.

Green Fuel, then operating as Macdom Pvt Ltd subsequently began working on the project in 2009, with the project officially commencing in June 2010.

By then, the project was operating within the 5 112 hectares of Arda farm that was being leased to Chipinge Rural District Council and its conflict with villagers has been growing as it expanded to more areas.

In 2017, Green Fuel contributed 56 million litres of ethanol as compared to 40 million in 2016. Green Fuel produces ethanol, which is being blended at between 15 and 20 percent.

Green Fuel also contributes 33 000 megawatts per year, according to 2017 figures.

The company claims it employs between 5 000 and 8 000 people.

Madhuku says all this was being blighted as the “project was bargained at a political level to act as a sanction buster by the Zanu PF government post-2008 election dispute” it “ignored the human rights implications of the ethanol project”.

He says this large scale agro-based investment adversely affected food security in Chisumbanje and Chinyamukwakwa due to encroachment on communal land by the project.

“The encroachment into communal land heightened concerns over potential conflict between the project and villagers configured around food security, land protection and social justice.”

TIZ programme manager Farai Mutondoro said this threat to access to land was also breeding corruption among the villagers with rampant reports of traditional leaders forcing females to trade sex for access to land.

“While men are prone to pay money in corruption transactions, women have been forced to give in to demands for sexual favours to have access to land,” Mutondoro said, adding that they had researched and documented such cases in the affected communities.

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