HomeNewsArda Transau relocation: A tale of unfulfilled promises

Arda Transau relocation: A tale of unfulfilled promises

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WHEN villagers from Chiadzwa diamond fields in Marange were relocated to Arda Transau in 2009 to pave way for diamond mining, they were promised a better life.

Clayton Masekesa

But five years down the line, the villagers say they are living in hell.

Mbada-Farming-inputs

They were promised decent accommodation, proper health care and educational facilities among other basic necessities, yet there is nothing like this.

Arda Transau was to be regarded as a city, with everything from lights, nice road network, schools, clinics and shops, but all these, according to the villagers were empty promises.

The villagers were flushed out to allow commercial diamond-mining companies to exploit the 60 000-hectare site.

Notable companies that were licensed to exploit the diamonds included Mbada Diamonds, Anjin Investments, Marange Resources, Jinan and Diamond Mining Corporation among others.

Between 2009-2011, the mines relocated 700 families from Marange to Arda Transau, a sprawling settlement about 40km north of the rich diamond fields.

Dilapidated-borehole

Each family was provided with a four-roomed house plus $1 000 cash.

Arda Transau spans 12 000 hectares and runs along the Odzi River.
It was a highly productive farming area, under irrigation, and was divided into grazing and farming zones that produced much for Manicaland and the whole country.

The ruling Zanu PF top officials reportedly looted various properties and stripped the whole farm of its potential, until it was non-functional.

Another villager Tumai Muwandi added: “The Chinese companies hardly employ people from here. All their operations are highly mechanised, there is nothing left for us and we are starving. The discovery of diamonds in our area should have been a blessing not a curse.”

Human rights activist Farai Maguwu said the relocation was a humanitarian case that calls for urgent intervention by NGOs.
“There is urgent need to avert the impending starvation among the relocated families and to ensure that they get plots to farm before hunger sets in,” Maguwu said.

“It is high time that the government and humanitarian agencies worked together and try to avert suffering on the part of the relocated families. It is a sad situation as they were only given a place to stay without any source of livelihood.”

Maguwu said the villagers were assured that they would get first preference in securing jobs created by the discovery of the diamonds, but as it stands right now, not even one person from the relocated villagers has been offered employment.

Many villagers at Arda Transau believe that they were dumped.
A local NGO Arda Transau Relocation Development Trust (ATRDT) was pressing the Zanu PF government to come up with a comprehensive strategy that will address the unfulfilled commitments made by different mining companies that relocated villagers from Marange to ARDA Transau.

In an interview recently, ATRDT chairman Cephas Gwayagwaya said: “We are deeply concerned that since government announced the plans to merge mining companies in Marange in February 2014 no consultations have been made with the community at Arda Transau over the issues affecting them.”

He said the NGO was aware that several mining firms that relocated the villagers like Anjin Investments have either stopped or scaled down mining operations, while Marange Resources and Mbada Diamonds were facing serious viability constrains and struggling to pay their workers.

“Since 2008, communities at Arda Transau have been grappling with accommodation shortages, unemployment, food insecurity, lack of medical facilities and clean water supplies, electricity and deteriorating educational facilities against a rising population withvery little efforts made by the mining companies to address these challenges,” Gwayagwaya said.

Relocations brought nothing

The-dry-water-tank-at-ARDA-tRANSAU

Joseph Mupambei (65), who is one of the relocated families thought that the relocation would open avenues to a new life, but today comparing his livelihood before the relocation, his life has radically lapsed into poverty.

First, he sold his pick-up truck to pay for food and his three children’s school fees.

“These diamonds are supposed to make us happy, but they have brought misery to people in Marange. These diamonds are a curse. We are worse-off than what we were in Chiadzwa,” he said.

Companies violating human rights

Centre for Research and Development (CRD) acting director James Mupfumi has said the insinuations being made by the mining companies of resource depletion in Marange were coming against the backdrop of human rights violations.

“This resulted in instant displacements of communities without secured alternative livelihoods and environmental degradation,” Mupfumi said.

“Government must now undertake human rights impact assessment in order to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for adverse human rights impacts.”

Mupfumi said before the relocation, the community enjoyed the fruits of the diamonds.

“The people say they were happier before the minerals were discovered. The people of Chiadzwa believe that the discovery of diamonds is a curse. People are suffering in the midst of plenty riches, yet they are so poor,” he said.

“Most of those that were relocated are yet to be compensated, and the mines are not doing anything meaningful to improve people’s livelihoods.”

Mining brought misery

Mupfumi emphasised that the government must immediately take corrective action to address commitments that were not fulfilled by the mining firms for the relocated families.

Simon Takaruza (37) who was also relocated said: “Most of the farming here is done by women, the majority of whom are single mothers. We can no longer sufficiently look after our children whom the mines have failed to give employment.”

He said they previously used to grow and sell crops at irrigation projects at their homes before the relocation, but the dams downstream at Arda Transau have been polluted and silted-up by the mines.

The few boreholes that were sunk have become dilapidated and overwhelmed by villagers and their livestock.

“We are very disgruntled as there are no benefits that have accrued to us. Most of us that were relocated are yet to be compensated, and the mines are not doing anything meaningful to improve our livelihoods,” an almost tearful Takaruza said.

Locals left out

WHEN villagers from Chiadzwa diamond fields in Marange were relocated to Arda Transau in 2009 to pave way for diamond mining, they were promised a better life.

But five years down the line, the villagers say they are living in hell.

They were promised decent accommodation, proper health care and educational facilities among other basic necessities, yet there is nothing like this.

Arda Transau was to be regarded as a city, with everything from lights, nice road network, schools, clinics and shops, but all these, according to the villagers were empty promises.

The villagers were flushed out to allow commercial diamond-mining companies to exploit the 60 000-hectare site.

Notable companies that were licensed to exploit the diamonds included Mbada Diamonds, Anjin Investments, Marange Resources, Jinan and Diamond Mining Corporation among others.

Between 2009-2011, the mines relocated 700 families from Marange to Arda Transau, a sprawling settlement about 40km north of the rich diamond fields.

Each family was provided with a four-roomed house plus $1 000 cash.

Arda Transau spans 12 000 hectares and runs along the Odzi River.
It was a highly productive farming area, under irrigation, and was divided into grazing and farming zones that produced much for Manicaland and the whole country.

The ruling Zanu PF top officials reportedly looted various properties and stripped the whole farm of its potential, until it was non-functional.

Another villager Tumai Muwandi added: “The Chinese companies hardly employ people from here. All their operations are highly mechanised, there is nothing left for us and we are starving. The discovery of diamonds in our area should have been a blessing not a curse.”

Human rights activist Farai Maguwu said the relocation was a humanitarian case that calls for urgent intervention by NGOs.
“There is urgent need to avert the impending starvation among the relocated families and to ensure that they get plots to farm before hunger sets in,” Maguwu said.

“It is high time that the government and humanitarian agencies worked together and try to avert suffering on the part of the relocated families. It is a sad situation as they were only given a place to stay without any source of livelihood.”

Maguwu said the villagers were assured that they would get first preference in securing jobs created by the discovery of the diamonds, but as it stands right now, not even one person from the relocated villagers has been offered employment.

Many villagers at Arda Transau believe that they were dumped.
A local NGO Arda Transau Relocation Development Trust (ATRDT) was pressing the Zanu PF government to come up with a comprehensive strategy that will address the unfulfilled commitments made by different mining companies that relocated villagers from Marange to ARDA Transau.

In an interview recently, ATRDT chairman Cephas Gwayagwaya said: “We are deeply concerned that since government announced the plans to merge mining companies in Marange in February 2014 no consultations have been made with the community at Arda Transau over the issues affecting them.”

He said the NGO was aware that several mining firms that relocated the villagers like Anjin Investments have either stopped or scaled down mining operations, while Marange Resources and Mbada Diamonds were facing serious viability constrains and struggling to pay their workers.

“Since 2008, communities at Arda Transau have been grappling with accommodation shortages, unemployment, food insecurity, lack of medical facilities and clean water supplies, electricity and deteriorating educational facilities against a rising population withvery little efforts made by the mining companies to address these challenges,” Gwayagwaya said.

Government failing to help the people
Gwanyanya accused government of failing to provide an irrigation facility to guarantee food security for the community as previously promised.

“The government has been very reluctant over the years to force mining companies to uphold these basic socio-economic rights of families they forcibly removed from Marange without any form of compensation to pave way for the mining,” he said.

He said the government was selfish as it prioritised want on extraction of resources with little regard for community rights, aconstitutional obligation that government was supposed to adhere to.

Gwayagwaya said Mines and Mining Development minister Walter Chidhakwa should expeditiously appraise the community at Arda Transau on the developments in Marange in order for the families to claim their rights that were violated by the mining companies.
Mbada Diamonds recently slashed the salaries of its workers by 50%.

Villagers added Anjin had reneged on all its promises – especially on the provision of clean water and food rations.
A serious health hazard is looming at Arda Transau as access to clean water was disconnected by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) over non-payment of water bills.

In a previous interview Anjin Investments board member Munyaradzi Machacha, however, differed.

“As a company we are doing our best to cushion people from nearby villages against the shocks of displacement. We have done quite a lot for the communities. We have provided water, a school and a satellite clinic servicing residents at Arda Transau,” Machacha said.

“We have been giving food hand-outs to households. We have also invited doctors from China to restore eyesight to a number of people, and we are planning to start irrigation schemes for the locals.”

Mbada Diamonds corporate services executive George Manyaya said his company has initiated various social responsibility programmes to the Arda Transau community.

The company has been involved in the renovation of classroom blocks and purchasing of furniture at St Wellingtons Primary School.

The giant mining company has also been supplying farming inputs like fertilisers and seed to the relocated families.

Mbada Diamonds has also partnered the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) to equip families resettled at Arda Transau with farming skills and inputs as away of making them self-sufficient.

As part of the deal, Mbada Diamonds secures inputs worth
$100 000 per year for the 100 resettled families while ZFU trains the farmers on sustainable farming methods.

Manyaya said Mbada Diamond’s involvement in community development projects was one of their many social investment initiatives.

“We have found it necessary to empower the families through these projects. It is important to give a person a fishing rod and teach himhow to fish, than to give him fish,” he said.

He said in order to spearhead these various projects; village committees have been put in place to manage the projects.

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