Chivi villagers accuse diamond miner of poisoning livestock


VILLAGERS in Chivi, Masvingo province, have accused Murowa Diamonds of contaminating water sources while prospecting for diamonds, which they say has caused the deaths of their cattle.


At a public meeting held by Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) at Sese business centre last week, villagers said their cattle had died after drinking contaminated water at St Simon Mazhara Primary School, where Murowa Diamonds has been prospecting for the precious gems since March.

Apart from the livestock deaths, the company reportedly uses huge volumes of water for its exploration activities.

This has, according to the villagers, triggered an artificial water shortage, forcing community members to walk long distances in search of the life-saving liquid.

The villagers claimed the diamond mining company requires at least 30 000 litres of water daily, drying up surface water sources before turning to the school borehole.

However, Murowa Diamonds spokesperson Islam Chipango denied that the death of the cattle was linked to the mine’s activities.

He said villagers raised a complaint and relevant government departments had carried out an independent investigation that absolved his company.

“… their independent investigations confirmed that our exploration activities were being carried out in compliance with the provisions of the law of the country and were not responsible for any damage to the environment or the livestock,” he said.

“Chivi is generally a dry region and in light of this and in support of the Sese community, Murowa Diamonds has moved to assist the community in this regard and we have since drilled 12 boreholes, which will provide clean drinking water for people and their animals.”

One villager, who only identified herself as Makusha, said she had lost four cattle and had registered a complaint with the diamond company, the veterinary department and the Environmental Management Agency.

“I was worried because I had noted that the chemicals Murowa Diamonds was using changed the colour of water to blue, so I asked the company officials if the water won’t harm my livestock. They assured me it would not,” she said.

Makusha said she called the local veterinary officer after the death of her second cow and was told that there were indications of poisoning.

The vet officers from Masvingo took samples from the carcass of her fourth cow for testing and no results have been received yet.

The villagers said they were worried about the impact of the chemicals used by the diamond mining company, whose containers have danger warning signs.

Ward 20 Zanu PF councillor Alec Nhundu confirmed the development, saying in total, five cattle and 10 turkeys had died.

“Two days after the meeting at Sese, veterinary officers and EMA officials came. They said the findings of the test discounted poisoning, but did not produce the results, claiming they forgot the documents in Masvingo,” Nhundu said.

“That became the problem because the villagers wanted to see the report and if it did discount poisoning from contaminated water, then it should explain the cause of the deaths of the cattle and the turkeys.”

Nhundu said while investment was welcome, there was need to ensure the investor and villagers were on the same page.

He said the CNRG meeting had opened up communication between the warring parties.