…mining company accused of flagrant violation of villagers’ rights
By Diana Gondongwe
CHIVI – Villagers in Chivi Rural District Council (RDC) Ward 20 are not happy with Murowa Diamonds’ operations which they say are extending to school grounds and other unsuitable places thereby creating a big hazard in the community.
Villagers say the company is violating their rights through its ‘grossly irresponsible’ diamond prospecting and mining work.
Many people in the area claim that when the company arrived in March 2018, villagers were told that only feasibility studies to determine whether or not mining was sustainable were being done, nothing more and nothing less.
“When they came, Murowa’s people never engaged the community in an honest manner and there is a lot that they are hiding. We were told they will only be taking samples for six months or so but now they have been mining for over a year. The reality is they are already mining and the community is not benefiting in any way.
“As a matter of fact, their mining activities disrupted our way of life and now we have to live with many health hazards. As a community, we want a meeting with the company so that they clearly explain their operations and how they intend to involve us and deal with the risks they have created for the community,” said Tinashe Mkandi, a villager in the area.
The Zimbabwe Environment Lawyers Association (ZELA) held a meeting with villagers and advised them to desist from signing any papers they did not understand as they could be tricked into signing agreement forms with the mine.
During the meeting, villagers stated that Murowa Diamonds’ main operations were situated barely 50 metres from St Simon’s Zhara Primary School classrooms. They said they were not happy with this because the mining activities were noisy and distractive to school pupils.
“The mine is barely 50 meters away from our primary school. How will our children concentrate in all that noise from the drilling?” said one villager who refused to be identified.
Residents also lamented that the company was now mining in school grounds and was using the school’s boreholes.
Some villagers said they suspected that the school head, Lazarus Ivhurinosara could be working in cahoots with the diamond mine in return for favours known only to him.
Ivhurinosara was given a letter from the residents’ lawyers stating that parents wanted to know if he had any agreement with Murowa.
“Our clients told us that Murowa Diamonds is mining on school grounds (and is) making a lot of noise to pupils thereby making their learning difficult. Our clients instructed us to demand to know from you what type of arrangement you have with Murowa Diamonds,” reads part of the letter from Matutu and Mureri Legal Practitioners.
Villagers also claim that some of their domestic animals (turkeys and cattle) died after they drank waste water from the mining operations.
Ward 20 Councillor Alec Nhundu said that the community had engaged lawyers and was now waiting to be advised on the way forward.
The community was supposed to have a meeting with mine officials on July 17 but mine officials later called the community’s lawyers asking for a postponement. They, however, did not give any reason why they wanted a postponement and neither did they suggest a date more convenient to them.
The villagers say they are ready to demonstrate if that is what it will take to force the company to the negotiation table.