Save Odzi Community Network Trust (SOCNET) is a community based organisation that covers six wards in three districts – Bohera, Chimanimani, and Chipinge. The estimated population is 32 740 of whom 33% are men and 67 % are women.
SOCNET was formed in 2012 and works with the community and different NGOs on the social environmental and cultural impacts of mining. SOCNET was formed after people became aware that their rights were being violated by the mining companies in Chiadzwa. The Trust has fifteen members – 10 men and 5 women. I am one of the Trust members. We received trainings from Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) on leadership, conflict management, community organizing and financial management.
The communities survive through craft, farming, fishing and livestock production.
We have two Rivers – Save and Odzi. People swam and fished in these rivers, and got their water for domestic and farm use from these rivers. Mining started in 2007 and by 2008 we started to see the downstream effects of mining. The company was discharging effluent in the two rivers and this resulted in livestock deaths, death of fish, skin diseases, and poor agricultural yields.
We face continual harassment from police and soldiers. Security forces are always on the look-out for illegal miners and they often arrest innocent community members.
There has been an increase in social problems such as an increase in men going to commercial sex workers, and an increase in STIs.
The most disastrous impact on the communities was water pollution. As a community we took legal action against four companies – Mbada, Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Company and Anjin with the help of ZELA. The legal action aimed to get the companies to confirm that they are polluting and to get an interdict to stop them from polluting the two rivers.
We also made our voices heard through the radio – Studio 7, we wrote letters which were given wide publicity, and we reported the issue to the Environmental Management Agency (EMA). With the help of Zela we got the water tested by scientists at the University of Zimbabwe. The water was found to be full of iron not good for human or animal consumption. We gave these results to government. We sensitized our traditional leaders on this issue.
All of these actions resulted in a round table meeting in July, before the court hearing. At the round table three companies – Mbada, Marange Resources and DMC confirmed they were polluting the two rivers and promised that they will no longer pollute. Previously they had denied polluting our rivers. Through raising our voice and our court actions these three companies have stopped polluting the rivers. However one company, Anjin, refused to acknowledge that they are responsible for polluting our rivers and the case against Anjin is still to be heard in court.
We still receive reports of livestock deaths. Cattle and people are in these rivers all day and the high levels of pollution cause them harm. We are no longer able to use the reeds and grasses from our rivers for animal feed and other uses because of the levels of pollution. Since mining there is also a lot of siltation and the water is no longer flowing. Soil and stones from Diamond Mining Company mines have blocked the flow of the Save river to some villages. In Ward 5 of Chimanimani cattle are being trapped in open pits left by Anjin, and Anjin dogs are attacking cattle in this community.
From the experience of our struggles to date we now understand that government departments such as the Veterinary D A’s office and the EMA do not have much power over Diamond Mining Companies.
We have ongoing actions planned. We are planning legal action to stop the mines from blocking the river, legal action against EMA for allowing mining companies to operate without Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) documents, and legal action against mining companies for operating without EIA documents.