Surprise return of our all weather friends at Chiadzwa
By Cosmas Sunguro
The mantra ‘Zimbabwe is open for business ‘ provided a safe return of the giant Anjin Diamond mine of China. Coupled with the enactment of the new Diamond Policy of 2019, it was ensured that the oriental friends are squeezed as one of the beneficiaries of the new policy. Yes, Anjin mine is back under the new dispensation.
This is the company which was known for its total flagrant of human and Labour rights in Chiadzwa diamond fields. The fact that all diamond mines had been consolidated in February 2016 could not deter them from harboring their intention of having another dance in mining the precious mineral. This is despite the fact that they used to claim that diamonds are now finished in their mining concessions.
According to the then Minister of Mines Hon Chidhakwa, the diamond companies were closed because the country was not realising any meaningful revenue from them. Therefore it was government’s intention to plug off all loopholes that had allowed the 15 billion dollars to slip through their hands whilst their eyes were wide open.
While it may be difficult for many to comprehend why Anjin was chosen as one of the two companies chosen, the situation on the ground indicated that they never panicked that their mining concession had been annexed. Infact, they retained a reasonable number of employees for security and maintenance purposes. They would regularly spruce up their airstrip. It is no surprise that some neutrals allege that the November 2017 change of government was a game changer to them. Maybe very few people realized that there is a close link between the army and the current president. To begin with, he is said to be one of the signatories of the agreement between Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) and AFEC since he was then Minister of Defence. Once the political landscape changed in November 2017, it was a foregone conclusion that the return of Anjin mine was imminent.
While the return of Anjin was applauded, there’s need to spare a thought about this oriental tiger. Has it changed its behavior? Many will remember that it was regularly dragged to Labour Courts on issues to do with working conditions that was appalling. Cases of sexual harassment, physical assaults, and verbal abuse abound. Anjin still hold the record of the diamond mine which experienced more than six industrial strikes in less than 2 years during its days of their operation.
Issues of personal protective clothing (ppc) needs to be addressed as workers used to be supplied with substandard material. Workers had to resort to a strike for them to be offered a pay slip. By then workers would jokingly call it a pain slip due to lower wages that was being given to employees. Anjin literally offered lowest wages than any other companies that were operating in Chiadzwa. A militarized environment has to be a thing of the past if ever it is going to pass the litmus test.
Desperate situations invites desperate measures as many unemployed youths jostled to submit their curriculum vitae for employment on the first of March 2019. They have no choice because unemployment rate is just above 90% nowadays. Kwadzinorohwa matumbu ndookwadzino mhanyira. ( people always rush where they are abused).
Now they are back in business. Human rights defenders needs to up their operations lest history repeats itself. Bitter memories return to the year that this writer was once abducted by Anjin security under spurious allegations with another comrade near their offices.
Anjin still has pending issues of EIAs, compensation and relocation that needs to be addressed. To borrow Mukasiri’s words, ” care should be taken to choose investors that do not swindle citizens of their rights to get fair share of benefits from mining “.
It remains everyone’s duty to ensure that human rights issues are respected. The government needs to intervene holistically without fear and favour when handling such cases. Otherwise the oriental tiger will forever haunt us. It may also the time to audit the environment, economic and socio-cultural impacts it inflicted on the people of Chiadzwa and Zimbabwe at large.