VILLAGERS, relocated to the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA) Transau in Odzi, Mutare West to pave way for diamond mining in Marange, have spent the past two months without water after their reticulation system broke down.
The villagers were relocated to the area in 2009 to pave way for massive diamond mining by the government and some Chinese companies.
For the past two months, the villagers have been forced to walk for long distances in search of precious liquid after their water reticulation system, maintained by the state-entity Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), broke down.
ARDA Transau Relocation Development Trust (ATRDT) representative Tawanda Mufute told a Constitutional Talk Series meeting last that over 1 000 families at the farm were living at risk of communicable diseases as they had no access to water.
The meeting was organised by a local rights group Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust (GGZT).
ARDA Transau is a sprawling 1 200ha government-owned farm.
“We have gone for two months without access to clean water. The situation is exposing us to water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid as villagers rely on unprotected sources,” said Mufute.
He said companies mining diamonds in Marange, their former homes, should take responsibility and ensure people relocated to ARDA Transau had access to health care and other basic amenities.
“When it comes to natural resources and governance, mining companies must take responsibility and ensure communities in where they operate have access to information, health care, and other basic amenities.”
However, Mufute said companies mining diamonds in Marange had neglected the local communities and were only concerned with extracting gems for their benefit.
A legal expert from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Peggy Tavagadza urged the ARDA Transau villagers to actively defend their basic rights.
She said local communities should be prepared to carry the primary burden of demanding and defending their constitutional rights.
“There is a pending case that was filed by ZELA on behalf of the community with regards to access to water. ZLHR cannot approach the courts again hence let us wait for what the courts will say about the ARDA Transau issue,” she said.
ZELA stands for Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association.
“There is a need for communities to assert and defend their rights. Many people always think of litigation as the first option when seeking remedies to rights violations, which is very wrong,” she Tavagadza adding the government had the responsibility to provide basic to the citizens.
“Demand the right to water from the relevant ministry because it is the responsibility of government to provide water for its citizens. The government has got the responsibility to provide basic needs for the communities.”
GGZT communications advisor, Donald Nyarota said a legal framework must be in place to protect local communities against the environmental, social, and economic costs of mining.
“Unfortunately, domestic legal frameworks are weak to, either contain human rights violations by businesses or extend benefits to communities. There is need for extensive legal reforms, contract transparency, and communities should be consulted.”