‘Villagers displaced by diamond mines should fight for their rights’

By Felix Matasva

MUTARE- A legal expert with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has urged communities in resource rich areas where they are sometimes displaced from, to actively defend their basic rights. 

Speaking during a Constitutional Talk Series, organized by local lobby group Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust (GGZT), ZLHR representative Peggy Tavagadza said communities carry the primary burden to demand and defend their constitutional rights. 

Her remarks responded to oral submissions presented by Tawanda Mufute of Arda Transau Relocation Development Trust presented that the relocated villagers had spent two months without access to clean water.

 “We have gone for almost two months without access to clean water. Our health is now at risk and if cholera or typhoid outbreak strikes here, will be highly affected.

“When it comes to natural resources governance, mining companies must take responsibility in ensuring that communities in which they operate from, have access to information, health care and other basic amenities.

“We seek to engage with ZELA and GGZT, since we feel that water bills will attract some misunderstandings in future,” said Mufute. 

Villagers now residing in the peri-urban area in Odzi were displaced from Chiadzwa to pave way for the nation’s largest diamond field.

Tavagadza revealed that the issue has been sent before the courts by Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) but said communities should not only rely on litigation without asserting their rights.

“There is a pending case that was filed by ZELA on behalf of the community with regards to access to water. ZLHR cannot approach the courts again hence let us wait for what the courts will say about Arda Transau issue. 

“There is need for communities to assert and defend their rights as many people always think of litigation as the first option when seeking remedies to rights violations, which is wrong.

“Demand the right to water from the relevant ministry because it is the responsibility of government to provide water for its citizens and permanent residents. Government has got the responsibility to provide basic rights and their enjoyment by citizens,” said Tavagadza.

Lack of water in the diamond mining displaced community has left many exposed to diseases such as typhoid and diarrhea.

GGZT is running the Constitutional Talk Series virtually and through radio broadcasts, in advocacy for inclusion and participation of communities in natural resources governance.

In his remarks GGZT communications advisor Donald Nyarota, said the legal framework must be extended to protect communities against environmental, social and economic costs of mining. 

He said more often communities bear the cost of extraction activities, without participation in the mining value chain, as corporates pocket profits. 

Nyarota recommended that states should engage in progressive legislative reforms, domestication of regional treaties, and community equity in mining contracts with set benefit sharing thresholds. 

“Natural resources extraction in the Global South, including Zimbabwe has failed to translate into positive economic and social impact for communities in resource rich areas. 

“Unfortunately, domestic legal frameworks are weak to either contain human rights violations by businesses or extend benefits to communities.

“There is need for extensive legal reforms contract transparency and community consultations, “said Nyarota. 

The villagers in Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA) Transau consist of more than 1 000 families who were moved from a village adjacent to Chiadzwa diamond field to a sprawling 1 200 hectares government-owned farm complex.