Marange villagers sceptical despite facelift

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Arda Transau Farm, situated 25km outside Mutare, is a sprawling new village for close to 700 families relocated from the diamond-rich Marange area to pave way for commercial mining operations.

The four-roomed units are solar-powered, fitted with secure water points and there are tarred roads and a clinic nearby.

The structures would easily make any community proud of such a transformation from the mud huts they had been living in for generations.

The structures have the same design.

But as the four diamond firms operating in Marange, Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Anjin Investments and Diamond Mining Cooperation (DMC), speak glowingly of the investment insecurity haunts the relocated villagers.

The families have no title deeds.
Officials from the diamond firms are reluctant to discuss the issue.

Marange Resources human resources executive Elimon Shumba was uneasy when asked about the title deeds.

“I cannot comment on that, it’s beyond my authority.

“But why would they demand title deeds in a rural set-up?” Shumba asked NewsDay during a media tour recently.

A relocated villager who only identified himself as Dhliwayo, although admitting the house is “spacious”, said he was not comfortable with the arrangement.

“The officials from the diamond companies don’t want to address this issue, therefore we feel uncomfortable here as we might be chased away anytime,” Dhliwayo said.

He said besides not having title deeds, the grazing land was so inadequate mining officials ordered them to reduce the number of livestock.

“Back in our villages we did not have problems with grazing land,” Dhliwayo said.

“But here we have been told to reduce our livestock and, worse still, the area we are in is close to the railway line which poses a danger to the animals.”

Relocated families were each given $1 000 disturbance allowances and are provided with basic food provisions.

DMC, which will have to relocate 115 families has so far only managed to relocate 21 families to Arda Transau.

Anjin Investments, in equal partnership with the government and Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company Limited of China, has constructed 474 homes, which have already been occupied.

The company has sunk enough boreholes and a water point for every four households.

It has also set up a purification plant where water harvested from Odzi River is treated.

The company, which only started selling its diamonds a few weeks ago, employs 1 500 workers and recruited 80% of its workforce from Chiadzwa.

Mbada Diamonds has relocated 100 families while Marange moved 42.

Before being relocated to Arda Transau village, some families were reportedly dumped at disused tobacco barns.

Experts estimate that Marange stones are likely to make up 25% of global alluvial diamonds output which have come as a timely boost to a market starved of the product.

The Marange diamonds, which industry players say are the biggest find in years, have divided the West and African countries over the global sale of Zimbabwe’s gems.

Zimbabwe’s diamond industry was badly tainted by allegations of human rights abuses in 2008, when up to 200 illegal miners were allegedly killed in Chiadzwa.

The globally respected diamond watchdog — the KPCS — was hit by squabbles over whether Zimbabwe should be allowed to legally export its gems.
Human rights groups say Zimbabwe has failed to put an end to malpractice which allegedly includes human rights abuse by the police and military.
Although Zimbabwe was given the green light by the KPCS to sell its diamonds globally, the US recently slapped sanctions on the gems from Marange Resources and Mbada Diamonds.