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Displaced Marange villagers in quandary

MUTARE — Traditional leaders in Marange are fuming over the failure by diamond companies to compensate villagers who were relocated from mining areas to Arda Transau in Odzi.

Report by Clayton Masekesa

The traditional leaders who include John Chirasika and Hebert Garahwa said they now wanted an audience with both President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to discuss the villagers’ concerns.

Over 780 families were relocated to pave way for diamond mining in Chiadzwa. But four years down the line, most of the families said they were still to be compensated by the six diamond mining companies operating in the area, namely Mbada Diamonds, Anjin, Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Corporation, Rera Diamonds and Jinan Investments. The companies could not be reached for comment.

Headman Chirasika said diamond mining companies have not been forthcoming in compensating the affected families despite repeated promises to do so.

“We are the owners of this land. It belongs to our ancestors, we should benefit from it,” he said. “We have tried to get assistance from the provincial governor [Chris Mushowe] regarding the compensation but nothing has come our way. It is high time we talk to Mugabe and Tsvangirai so that they can help us. These are the last people that can help us.”

Chirasika accused some of the mining companies of obstructing attempts by villagers to meet with Mugabe.

He said some of the diamond miners were threatening villagers and traditional leaders with unspecified action, claiming that they were “close” to Mugabe.
  
Headman Garahwa said: “I do not know why the diamond companies are punishing us like this. They have completely ignored our plight. They are busy sponsoring colourful sporting activities and political parties, while the real owners of the land are suffering. We want our money.”

He added: “They are driving expensive cars and splashing wealth everywhere yet they have ignored us. Vane chikwereti chedu [they owe us]. We will not allow that. We are seeking audience with the highest offices so that we can be assisted.”

Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) director Mutuso Dhliwayo said the government had the obligation to ensure that the “eviction” of communities and their subsequent relocation was done in a manner that did not negatively affect their rights.

“Communities own land. The relocation of families where mineral resources like diamonds are found should be done in a manner that does not affect the villagers’ rights before, during and after the relocation process,” he said.


‘WE WANT PRESIDENTMUGABE TO INTERVENE’

Garahwa said villagers have tried several avenues to get compensation, but to no avail.
“We are being blocked and threatened. We hope the country’s leadership will read the story and come to our rescue,” he said.
According to the government evaluators, each family was supposed to get US$40 000 as compensation.
Manicaland provincial administrator Fungai Mbetsa confirmed that no monetary compensation had been made to the families so far.
“There are no monetary compensations that have made as of now, but there have been standard relocation incentives that have been paid to the households that were proposed by the government,” Mbetsa said.
He added: “The government did not take into account the property value differentials and as a result the community members are complaining.”

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