The long-running dispute pitting Sese villagers and Murowa Diamond Company over exploration has moved up in intensity with villagers barricading roads.
Villagers have been at loggerheads with Murowa over exploration in Sese accusing the miner of refusing to engage them to strike a win-win deal before the operations can continue.
Under Zimbabwean mining law, all minerals are owned by the State and the Government allocates prospecting and mining claims. Miners can prospect or mine any deposit that is not under crops or built over, but most miners come to arrangements with farmers to minimise conflict.
Last month, villagers staged a demonstration against the mining company at one of the exploration points in Mashamhanda village.
Government then intervened through Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Ezra Chadzamira ordering the setting up of a special committee.
Following the ministerial visit to Sese, Murowa was expected to minimise exploration and wait for a peaceful resolution to the standoff.
However,when The Herald visited the exploration site in Chivi yesterday the diamond miner was busy drilling for samples in Mashamhanda village.
The miner had also filled huge pits that had been dug by locals to stop it from accessing exploration points until their dispute had been resolved.
Sese villagers had also vainly tried to barricade Murowa’s route to its main camp where the diamond mine has been camped since 2018, with villagers complaining the camp interfered with their children’s learning.
The Sese community plans to upgrade Danhamombe High School into a boarding school and building material for a girl’s hostel has since been delivered.
Sese Community Development Trust secretary Mr Musiiwa Musiiwa said they were disturbed by Murowa’s intransigence in the face of their readiness for dialogue. Mr Musiiwa protested that the gem miner was not supposed to continue mining in the wake of a visit by Minister of Mines and Mining Development Winston Chitando and Provincial Minister Chadzamira to the area.
He confirmed that villagers have dug pits to block Murowa from accessing its exploration points.
“We dug these gullies in the hope that Murowa people would come to the negotiating table after failing to access their drilling points, but they filled the gullies with earth and are now easily accessing their rigs and drilling has since resumed after a short hiatus.”
This was supported by Mrs Shylet Nhengu of Mashamhanda village who fumed that Murowa was not showing any respect to the Sese community as hosts of the natural resources that the company wanted to mine, although mineral rights are owned by the State.
Mr Aaron Dhobha of the same village said: “We are not against investment in our area. We want modernisation and jobs for our children, but we want Murowa to give us an ear after sitting at the negotiating table so that we move in the same direction.”
Chivi district development coordinator Mr Innocent Matingwina said he was not aware whether Murowa had resumed exploration in Sese.
“The indications that came out from the visit by Ministers Chitando and Chadzamira was that Murowa was supposed to stop its work until a committee comprising villagers was formed to engage the diamond miner so that there is common understanding going forward. I am not aware that Murowa has resumed exploration. I will have to check,” said Mr Matingwina.
“Work on the committee in question will start possibly next week and will comprise representatives of villagers, my office and other interested parties” added Mr Matingwina.
Murowa owns nearly 200 diamond claims in Sese and has been scouting to establish the commercial viability of mining kimberlite pipes in the area for the past three years.