MUTARE– At least 26 families from Tinoengana village, in Chiadzwa face forced eviction from the diamonds fields, five months after Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) started mining in their backyards.
The families were made aware of their plight on Tuesday when a high-powered delegation including security officials descended on the village under Headman Chiadzwa in Marange.
Civic society organizations (CSO) in coalition with community-based organizations (CBO) held an urgent press briefing to alert of the impending humanitarian violations and their intention to file an urgent High Court application to halt the arbitrary eviction.
Led by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), the CSOs accused government of seeking to forcibly move the villagers without compensation.
“We the undersigned note with concern the following: That industrial diamond mining in Chiadzwa has led to the displacement of people in Marange since 2009, (Mansard report, October 2016), evictees to date are over 1300 families (7000 people are affected).
“That previous evictions and relocation of villagers have been accompanied by opaque compensation arrangements, and serious disruptions of affected villagers’ livelihoods and way of life,
“That since ZCDC effectively commenced mining operations in March 2016, the company has reneged on its obligations and liabilities (e.g) compensation for workers, compensation for displaced and relocated persons as well as lack of an Environmental Impact Assessment document detailing how ZCDC will comply with standing environmental regulations.
“That ZCDC continues to expand operations into Chiadzwa’s Tinoengana village, without consulting villagers or engaging them in any way.
“That the District Administrator, together with Chief Marange, accompanied by heavily armed police officers convened a meeting with the communities on 3Oth of November 2016 announcing an impending forced and arbitrary eviction by the 3rd of December 2016,” reads part of the statement.
One of the affected villagers (who requested anonymity) told 263chat that the situation was tense in the diamond rich area as families were also desperate to leave the dust infested area while others are demanding compensation first.
“We are twenty six families that have been affected by this heartless move by government to move us to ARDA Transau in Odzi, without compensation,” said the affected villager.
Zim Rights chair Passmore Nyakureba said it was unconstitutional for the government to engage in such arbitrary evictions without allowing families to inspect where there would be relocated.
He said there were several issues to be considered including social amenities that the families need when they are relocated.
“Our constitution provides that no-one should be moved without their consent, there are also issues on the right to shelter where relocation should be to a decent place of residence.
“Section 74 of the constitution also delves into circumstances that should be considered beside outlawing arbitrary relocation, there are issues of shelter, education, health and sources of livelihood – where responsible authorities should take measures to consider these issues are taken on board before relocation without that it becomes a violation,” said Nyakureba.
Meanwhile, Manicaland pressure groups led by ZELA have written a letter to the District Administrator Cosmas Sigauke warning him against abusing his power.
ZELA researcher Nyaradzo Mutonhori said this was meant to warn such officials abusing their privileges to trample on the rights of the marginalized rural communities.
“We have learnt with great dismay that your office and the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (Private) Limited are arbitrarily evicting 26 households in Tinoengana Village in Chiadzwa to pave way for diamond mining. Section 74 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe protects citizens against arbitrary evictions.
“We are hereby writing to your office to warn you to stop these illegal, unlawful and un-procedural evictions failing which will result in us pursuing direct legal action against you in your personal capacity,” reads part of the letter sent to the DA’s office.
When contacted for comment DA Sigauke said government was working on the mining development plans from ZCDC as well as requests from villagers who are seeking relocation.
Sigauke said ZCDC had promised to settle compensation pegged at $1000 per household before the end of December but he failed to ascertain whether the houses earmarked for the families were in good condition.
“We have been informed by the company that they want to mine that area and develop it, while the villagers themselves have appealed for relocation because they cannot bear the dust,” said Sigauke.