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Diamonds failing to maintain their lustre

Compiled by Nyasha Chingono

WHEN Marange witnessed a diamond rush in 2006, its inhabitants dared to dream of a better life.

Nearly two decades after the diamond rich soils were invaded by massive mining companies, government and individuals looking to stick their fingers in the honey pot, Marange is a trail of poverty.

A drive along the vast swathes of the diamond rich planes of Marange, one is greeted with deep despair. A community that never benefited from its vast resources.

Far away in the city, the rich who plundered the resource, live large in opulence.

The curse of owning rich minerals still haunts Marange years after big mining consortiums descended on their land.

“We have nothing to show that we ever had diamonds here,” Clever Mupasi, 60, a community elder in Marange said.

He makes a cursory gaze across the vast swathes of land which have been reduced to piles of sand and deep pits.

“This is what is left of our beautiful land. When diamond was discovered here, we thought the future of our children was now set but we were wrong. We listened to their lies and curse ourselves for ever believing in the capitalists,” Mupasi said, gazing to the clear blue skies as if to summon divine strength. 

While the government made it mandatory for mining companies operating in communities to cede 10% to the community through the Community Share Ownership Trust, the Marange community has not seen development in their land. 

Despite committing to uplifting livelihoods in Marange-Zimunya, Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) is yet to implement meaningful projects in the area.

“We were sold a dummy. These empty promises continue to hurt our community, hope is fading daily,” Moses Mhlanga, another community elder said. 

“We are yet to get our share of the profit these companies have made from diamond activities.” 

The companies have left a trail of irreparable destruction while other diamond companies continue to plunder the resources.

The Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust (MZCSOT) was launched by the late former President Robert Mugabe in 2011 with the goal of communities benefiting from their resources.

But years after the launch, people here are still clinging to hope for better schools, health facilities and livelihoods.

With poverty stalking the community following repeated droughts, the Marange community is desperate for interventions. About 8 million Zimbabweans are facing hunger this year, the World Food Programme (WFP) says.

In a bid to help communities’ benefit from their resources, the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) is pushing to influence mining revenue transparency and benefit sharing in the extractives sector in Zimbabwe.

In a report entitled Tracing the progress towards revenue transparency and revenue sharing in the extractives sector in Zimbabwe (2013-2019), the advocacy campaign seeks to help mining communities to realise benefits of the community share ownership trusts some of which have either been forfeited by companies. 

The PWYP Zimbabwe  was birthed in the same year that government came up with regulations for setting up mining community share ownership trusts. 

The campaign’s focus on mining transparency and accountability issues remains as critical as ever. With a huge mineral wealth potential, mining could be leveraged to support Zimbabwe’s economic recovery, stabilisation and growth agenda,” reads the report. 

Since the 2000 land reform, the mining sector has been one of the biggest contributors to economic growth. The sector contributed US$2.9 billion, accounting for 60% to country’s

total export earnings in 2018. 

Mining employs around 35,000 people, of which 99% are indigenous Zimbabweans, an average of 75% are from the local communities, and nearly 7% are female, the report reads.

While the mining sector contributes immensely to economic growth, the community should also benefit from the resources.

Therefore, the right of communities to benefit from resources in their localities is enshrined in the Zimbabwean Constitution.

According to the report communities are unaware of how they should benefit from the community share ownership trust, hence it is difficult for PWYP.

“On the ground, some service delivery points like schools and clinics are not aware of how they are supposed to benefit from the revenue sharing arrangements between central government and local governments. But a big challenge already lies ahead for civil society, especially the PWYP campaign, to ensure transparency, accountability and citizen participation in the management and utilisation of devolution funds,” the report reads. 

PWYP also laments the lack of clarity in the constitution on how communities can access mining benefits. “Particularly PWYP members, have been pushing for policy and practice reforms to improve the development impact of CSOT on LESD. All this work has been precipitated by the government’s thrust to open the mining sector for investment, taking a pro large-scale investor stance in the process and disregarding the constitutional right of communities to benefit from resources in their localities,” reads the report. 

The report notes that the mining sector transparency framework in Zimbabwe fails to meet the bottom bar. 

As a result, citizens and civil society lack the information leverage to effectively ask the government and corporates hard questions on how their resources are managed to deliver an optimal national development dividend.

The report notes that there is a need for robust advocacy to ensure that communities benefit from their resources and the creation of a transparent environment by mining companies.

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