MUTARE — Communities surrounding the controversial Chiadzwa diamond fields are accusing Saviour Kasukuwere of taking them down the garden path during his tenure as youth, indigenisation and economic empowerment minister.
The ZANU-PF national political commissar assured, the villagers in Zimunya and Marange, before the 2013 harmonised polls, that companies extracting alluvial diamonds in the Chiadzwa area had committed to funding their community projects to the tune of US$50 million.
A recording in which Kasukuwere gave the assurance, while addressing guests at the Zimbabwe Local Government Association annual congress in Mutare in May 2013 has since gone viral — arousing anger among the villagers.
In the recording, the combative minister is heard saying: “I can assure you that your funds are now coming; the community trust has now been registered and it has been approved,” he said in reference to the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust (CSOT).
“We have sat with the companies to say we must commit and we did commit. We must now implement and ensure the communities benefit from those resources…I’m also Mukwasha weZimunya-Marange, so I understand your concern, so tiritose panyaya iyoyo (we are together on this issue).”
Only US$400 000 has found its way into the trust coffers more than a year after it was launched.
Marange villagers are not amused by the conflicting statements they are getting from politicians.
Misheck Muyambo, a villager, this week heaped all the blame on Kasukuwere.
Muyambo suspects that the money could have been released by the companies mining the gems in Marange but ended up getting into the pockets of individuals.
“We are beginning to doubt that the money was not disbursed. I strongly suspect that someone or a clique of untouchables received that money and diverted it for their own personal use,” he said.
Contrary to the suspicions, officials from the mining firms have since distanced themselves from Kasukuwere’s claim that they had pledged US$10 million each, when they appeared before parliamentarians last year.
Some said they only pledged US$1,5 million each, while others professed ignorance of the existence of the trust.
Former mines minister, Obert Mpofu, infuriated Kasukuwere further when he too expressed ignorance regarding the existence of the share ownership scheme.
The claims have even embarrassed President Robert Mugabe who launched the trust in Marange in the presence of representatives from the diamond miners.
At the launch ceremony, the President was presented with a dummy cheque for US$50 million which Kasukuwere said was money pledged by five mining firms operating in Chiadzwa to ensure proceeds from diamonds benefit the local communities.
With the pledge fizzling into one horrible dream that will never materialize, indigenous pressure groups are piling pressure on the communities to revolt in order to draw government’s attention to the issue.
The pressure groups are also citing duplicity on the part of government, which is not taking any steps to beneficiate the gems from Chiadzwa.
Former Manicaland provincial affairs minister, Chris Mushohwe, once confessed that he once stopped people from Marange from revolting over the Marange-Zimunya CSOT saga.
Headman Mangwadza said they were now not so sure of who to believe among the politicians.
“It’s difficult to understand who and what we should believe when the people we trust mislead us in such a way. Minister Kasukuwere should explain to us what he meant because from his utterances, our issue should have been long resolved by now. He has an obligation to explain himself to us,” he said.
Popularly known as “Tyson”, owing to his combativeness, Kasukuwere has been dodging questions to do with the trust.
He was recently hauled before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, where he accused the committee chairperson Justice Mayor Wadyajena – the Member of Parliament for Gokwe-Nembudziya constituency, of witch-hunting.
Chief Marange also fired from the hip last week saying the ministers who have authority over the miners and trust were reluctant to act because, he believed, they were receiving kickbacks from the miners.
“Ministers are busy conniving with diamond companies to loot diamonds and receiving khaki envelopes. This is why they can’t act. I’m under fire in my community because everyone heard the announcement. The President was there, only to be told that the miners are not aware of it. What do they take us for?” charged Chief Marange