By Billian T Matambo
The victimization of locals, violation of human rights and killings of artisanal miners is not only robbing family breadwinners but the whole community of Chiadzwa is devastated by these acts of bloodshed. It’s even shocking and uniquely surprising that the security guards, police and army who are supposed to be protecting the citizens are responsible for the merciless killings. The law is now in their hands and seems they are above the law thus we wonder where are the eyes of ‘Big Brother’. We are now an exact replica of ‘Animal Farm’ hence the million-dollar question is how did we reach here? What happened to the rule of law?
ZIDAWU hosted a whatsapp virtual dialogue on 5 March 2021 to ascertain ways that can eliminate these violations and promote communities beneficiation in the diamond mining sector. The discussion based on the theme ‘ tracking the footprint towards formalisation of artisanal diamond mining’ was attended by more than 200 participants. The major purpose was to map a way that can stop criminalization of artisanal diamond mining which seems to be the root cause of these killings and violations of human rights. Locals are subjected to inhumane treatment daily by the police and army all in the name of protecting our precious stones. Artisanal miners are being killed each and every time and vicious dogs being unleashed on innocent villagers accused of trespassing. Moreover, women and young girls are exposed to all kinds of assaults and brutality at Tenda shopping centre by uniformed forces in search of artisanal miners . The locals are caught between this cat and mouse game by security details and artisanal miners.
The issue of formalisation of artisanal diamond miners is critical and has always been of paramount concern to communities as it is argued can be a major breakthrough for communities to enjoy the crumbs of the minerals. Its evident across all sectors of economy especially the mining sector in Zimbabwe that we have a ‘Big Brother’ who ‘just eat’ from every plate. The ‘just eat’ phenomenon has deep roots in the mining sector whereby host communities are left to wallop in abject poverty yet being occasionally called to applause and ululate whilst ‘Big Brother’ is looting all the minerals. Thanks to CSOs who are working tirelessly to open the eyes of communities who are often regarded as docile and naive by ‘Big Brother’s friends from China.
It is disheartening that whenever locals are caught eating the residue through rtisanall mining they are branded trespassers, thieves or gwejas and are severely punished. But then how can one trespass on his home area when in actual fact the mining concession is at the centre of the community and is unfenced. The unprecedented behavior of these ruthless security details left nothing to be desired about our precious stones. It is worrisome when the government which has the mandate to protect its citizens is the one perpetrating against its own people. If community Monitors fold their hands and became spectators, it will tantamount to us openly witnessing our own destruction and violation of human rights and freedoms .CBOs in Marange have been making noise, pleading to the authorities since 2006 to stop the violations and killings but seems our voices are falling on deaf ears. Its almost 2 decades now and we are still crying with the same problem whilst ‘Big Brother’ just consumes everything without even caring for the wellbeing of the host communities.
With all this in mind communities are advocating for legalisation of artisanal mining. The formalisation will aid greatly in closing the gaps in the mining sector and stop syphoning of diamonds and other minerals. As communities we are certain that benchmarking our wishes with Kimberly process guidelines will be the best. The move will bring a sense of ownership to the community and enhance community beneficiation from our natural resources. Basically looking into the bigger picture artisanal mining was there and will be always there despite government’s countless efforts to stop it. Its now like an unstoppable train and its of no use fighting people in a do or die situation due to poverty. Whether we like it or not our diamonds are channelled through the black market benefitting the wrong people all because of the criminalisation of artisanal mining. So why not formalising it and put an end to diamond black markets and illicit financial flows(iff) Another advantage is that this will most probably eradicate victimization and brutal killings of artisanal miners by security details in the name of protecting precious gems.
Government is very much aware of communities’ plea for the formalisation of artisanal mining in the diamond sector. We have been using CSO organizations like Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) to push for policy change as far as mining is concerned. Will ‘Big Brother listens to our plea ?, only time will tell. With the bureaucracy in government departments which stalls development and hinder progress of processes, we will continue lobbying. Section 13(4) of the constitution clearly states that communities must benefit from their natural resources but are we benefiting? Absolutely no, we are only harvesting thorns by being at the receiving end of negative impacts of mining.
The New mines and mineral bill needs to be a pacesetter on legalisation of artisanal mining. On the other hand communities need to push for transparency and accountability in the diamond mining sector with a focus on artisanal mining. It is highly probable that with formalisation of artisanal diamond mining Chiadzwa or Zimbabwe , curbing smuggling , our national development will never be the same again.