A small camp has been growing by the month, from about 10 employees in March last year and now the number has swelled to an estimated 60 workers.
Sese Growth Point, some 52km South West of Masvingo in Chivi District may never be the same again as Murowa Diamonds, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto intensifies exploration for the world’s most precious stone; the diamond.
Villagers are already preparing for the worst; pressure groups have been formed and human rights organisations invited to Ward 20 in Chivi as conflict between industry and people heightens.
“Heavy equipment has been rolling in and the number of workers employed at the exploration site growing. While people here generally welcomed the development, there are many fears,” said Ward 20 Councillor Alec Nhundu.
On May 23, 2019, the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers’ Association (ZELA) the Zimbabwe Coalition on Land and Development (ZimCold) and Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) converged at Sese on the invitation of Sese Community Trust to hold a District Alternative Mining Indaba pertaining to the new mining venture.
An estimated 400 villagers attended the Indaba and raised many issues concerning the emerging mine.
Their worst fear is that thousands of them are going to be evicted to allow Murowa Diamonds to open the mine. Already two villagers, Emmanuel Chingava and Susan Makusha have had their fields sealed off for periods of up to five months to allow exploration work to be carried out.
Exploration work in the area was started by Rio Tinto in 2000 and no progress was made thereafter. A document seen by The Mirror at the workshop indicates that Murowa Diamonds returned to resuscitate exploration after President Mnangagwa threatened to withdraw mining claims that are lying idle.
Murowa Diamonds has since indicated that it is looking at investing US$25 million into a new mine and Nhundu said that at least six villages namely Zhara, Charumengwe, Tavagadza, Zimuto, Mazvihwa, and Gondovori with more than 550 households are inside the pegged exploration area and these are facing serious prospects of eviction.
Farai Mujeni from ZELA, who chaired the workshop, reiterated the villagers’ appreciation of the new investment. He however, said that there were serious concerns on a number of issues which they wanted addressed.
Villagers are getting anxious on where they will go and their compensation if they are to be displaced. There is a lot of fear of a repeat of Chingwizi where thousands of villagers were removed from the south eastern tip of Chivi District without compensation and dumped in an inhabitable place in Chingwizi where they live in tents without schools, clean water or decent toilets.
The Chingwizi families were evicted after the construction of the vast Tugwi – Mukosi Dam.
None of the officials from Murowa Diamonds attended the District Indaba and this did not go down well with some villagers.
Nyaradzo Mutonhori a lawyer from ZELA condemned the absence of Murowa Diamonds at the important mining indaba. She said that by shunning the meeting after receiving an invitation, the company was actually in breach of Social License Operate; where there is need for openness and transparency between investor and community.
“These companies breach what is termed Social License Operate in the Constitution which is a call for openness and transparency between the investor and the community,” said Mutonhori.
Mutonhori also said that it will be amiss in view of the policy of devolution to resettle the villagers outside Chivi because then it will not be possible for them to enjoy their native resources.
“You can’t enjoy your native resources after being relocated from Chivi to a faraway place like Marondera, devolution becomes irrelevant,” she said.
So far exploration has disrupted a lot of activities in the area. Conducting lessons at Danhamombe High School has become difficult as exploration and drilling is taking place inside the school yard. The meeting heard that the pass rate at the school has gone down due to the poor learning environment.
Girls from the school are falling in love with the miners and the meeting was told that at one time two upper sixth girls fought over a man employed by the mine.
Villagers also complained that the mine was depleting water sources for their domestic animals and called on Murowa which has so far drilled six boreholes to sink more. They also wanted respect for their relatives’ graves, sacred places and the cultures of the area.
They called on the mine to maintain the roads which are being damaged by heavy vehicles.
The Indaba also discussed the mining sector and mining sector reforms in Zimbabwe, analysed the impact of the project on the area and attempted to establish if the Environmental Impact Assessment was done.
At the end of the Indaba, a declaration of issues was raised and this will be brought to the Provincial Alternative Indaba that will be held in Kadoma in July and the issues from Kadoma will be taken to the National Alternative Mining Indaba to be held in Bulawayo between September and November this year and then all issues will be taken to Government.
ZIMCOLD’s Tendai Bhobho, ZCC’s Methodist Pastor, Admire Mutizwa said they would like to see all processes prevailing in harmony.
Chief Chipindu said Murowa Diamonds was still doing its exploration work and allayed fears in some quarters that the company was already mining and selling diamonds._Masvingo Mirror