Zimbabwe’s community share ownership trusts, set up by government in recent years to benefit poor communities in resource-rich areas of the country, have never been far away from controversy.
Poorly explained and little understood, even by those communities supposed to benefit from them, Zimbabwe’s CSOTs have become a source of tension and dispute for all the wrong reasons.
And none more so than one of the pioneers of the CSOT project, the Zimunya-Marange Community Share Ownership Trust, set up to benefit the impoverished and dislocated communities who found themselves living on top of what was once described as one of the world’s richest alluvial diamond fields south of Manicaland’s capital, Mutare.
The issue in question is how the communities affected by the diamond mining operations were selected to be members of the trust – and how others were excluded.
While the communities of Chiadzwa and Marange were the most directly affected by the diamond-mining activities and were subjected to forced relocation, neighbouring communities just across the Odzi River, not 5km away, such as Hot Springs, Nenohwe, Nyanyadzi and Chakohwa, as well as Nemaramba and Chaseyama, were excluded despite suffering the effects of the high security mining operations.
Heavy security fencing and military patrols have cut these communities off from their traditional grazing lands; while the heavy traffic to and from the diamond fields have severely degraded the roads in these communities.
Some residents also point out that scores of their cattle and livestock have also died mysteriously in the years after the diamond mining companies began their operations, and many suspect the river water they drink has been contaminated and has led to their animals being poisoned. And to make matters worse, the cost of basic commodities have soared just because they serve those working in the diamond fields – as well as local residents.
Despite these handicaps and the negative effects they have had on the livelihoods of those living in these communities along the Mutare-Birchenough Bridge highway, the government excluded them from becoming beneficiaries of the trust.
Residents living there blame political chicanery and a clear lack of consultation prior to the trust’s establishment as the reasons for their exclusion.
For example, what distresses them most is how government excluded these communities, barely a stone’s throw from the depopulated Chiadzwa diamond fields, but included communities in Zimunya, up to 100km away to the north, just south of Mutare.
Traditional administrative boundaries were used to decide the beneficiaries of the trust. The Chiadzwa diamond fields fall within the jurisdiction of Mutare Rural District, while Hot Springs,
Nyanyadzi, Nenohwe and many other communities neighboring Chiadzwa, fall under the jurisdiction of Chimanimani Rural District, which effectively ruled them out of contention for membership to the Zimunya Marange CSOT.
According to the Manicaland province geographical map, the Odzi and Save Rivers separate Mutare Rural District from Chimanimani, which is certain to have worked against Hot Springs and its sister communities.
Admire Mathende, a Hot Springs villager, said their exclusion from the scheme was painful considering their community’s lifestyle had been badly disrupted by the Chiadzwa mining operations.
Mathende cited the price of goods in shops that have risen over the years as a result of cash inflows at Chiadzwa.
“In 2008, groceries were very expensive to buy, especially here at Hot Springs because of increased demand due to illegal mining. These mining companies have also been polluting our water sources, especially the Odzi River.
“We were supposed to have been included in the community scheme, but I guess the issue was more political,” Mathende complained.
Another villager Cephas Mtetwa said they have also been losing livestock after drinking contaminated water from the Odzi River.
“We thought they would look at the communities that are affected by the mining companies for consideration into the share ownership trust,” Mtetwa said.
According to a Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) report of 2013, ward 5 of Chimanimani West lost 178 goats and 132 cattle after drinking contaminated water from the Odzi and Save rivers in 2012, with a further 278 cattle dying in ward 8 during the same period.
The communities also believe the mining companies should play an active role in ensuring the roads in the district are well maintained since their presence in Chiadzwa has resulted in increased traffic.
“One would expect the mining companies to at least improve the roads here. But you just see trucks full of diamonds meandering through potholes on the way to Harare,” Mathende added sarcastically.
Marange Residents Empowerment Trust (MRET) chairperson, Didymus Machiri, who was one of the people championing a broad-based trust, said they had made significant progress holding meetings with communities. But the idea later collapsed following the launch of Zimunya-Marange CSOT.
“When Statutory Instrument SI 116 of 2010 was gazetted, it had three options for the setting up of a community share ownership trust, the first was that rural district councils should be at the forefront, the second option was that communities mobilize themselves, and the third option stipulated that any other distinct community or group of people affected by the exploitation of natural resources in or adjacent to their place of residence should also be included.
“We were working under the guidance of the second option and everything was going according to plan until the Minister (Saviour Kasukuwere at the time) came with a different model.
“To us the fact that the President officially launched the trust meant that the chapter was closed because we could not go against him. But we were left with a query because under that model so many communities were left out,” Machiri explained.
He added that under their plan of action a lot of ground could have been covered since they had a clear framework of key development projects for the affected communities.
The Zimbabwe Diamond Mine Workers’ Union, which has an office at Hot Springs, confirmed that Hot Springs and its neighboring communities had a lot to do with diamond mining processes at Chiadzwa.
ZDMWU secretary-general, Justice Chinhema, said the reason for setting up an office at Hot Springs was that they viewed the community as part and parcel of the diamond mining community.
Chinhema said they too, had issues with the structure of the CSOT, saying his organization believed the “workers deserved a stake in it because they are a significant sector that cannot be ignored”.
The Centre for Natural Resource Governance noted that the issue of CSOTs was not included in the Indigenization Act, but was later “smuggled” onto the indigenization agenda through regulations that are not enforceable at law.
CNRG director Farai Maguwu said: “This explains why companies presented dummy cheques to the President while the majority have not complied with the extortionate demands for payment.”
He added that the selection of trustees was shrouded in secrecy and left to the rural district council to administer with absolutely no inclusion of the intended beneficiaries in decision-making.
“If the trustees are appointed by the rural district council they are accountable and answerable to the RDC, not directly to the community. So it really stands in the way of transparency and accountability,” added Maguwu.
A villager at Hot Springs who refused to be named revealed that local clinics were also struggling to cope with the rising populations in the area due to the diamond mining activities.
“Local clinics and schools on this side are now overcrowded because a lot of school children from Marange and Chiadzwa are now coming to stay with relatives going to school,” she said.
Another villager from Nyanyadzi, Eunice Mathambo Mtetwa, said the sudden surge in population in their area had put pressure on the few boreholes, such that some were failing to cope.
“Free movement of people and livestock to and from Bocha has been hindered, people used to cross to see their relatives across the river, and also to fetch firewood. Livestock used to cross over for grazing, but due to tight security and fencing around the diamond
fields, it is now impossible to do so,” added Mtetwa.
Tichaenzana Chibuwe, a resident of Hot Springs and treasurer of Save Odzi Community Network Trust, said they were excluded from the community share ownership plan despite the fact that they are the most affected people by virtue of living downstream.
“We are the most affected people because we live downstream; our cattle are dying because of contaminated water,” said Chibuwe.
Environmental Management Agency Spokesperson Steady Kangata confirmed receiving reports of livestock dying after drinking contaminated water but said expert opinion from Veterinary Services department was needed to substantiate the claims.
Chimanimani West Member of Parliament, Munacho Mutezo, declined to comment on the issue. “I cannot comment on that. It is not my issue, talk to the right people,” said Mutezo.
Chief Kibeni Zimunya, who is the current secretary of the Zimunya Marange CSOT, expressed ignorance about the formalities used to come up with communities that formed the trust and how the trustees themselves were selected.
“The trust was established using districts, hence the exclusion of those communities outside Mutare District,” said Zimunya.
The new Minister of Youth, Indigenization and Economic Empowerment, Patrick Zhuwawo, said he was barely two months into his new job and was still trying to understand many issues in his new portfolio.
The Zimunya Marange CSOT operates within the Mutare West constituency, comprising the entire Marange area and areas as far as Zimunya, Sakubva, Burma, Chigodora, 22 Miles, St Welberts Odzi and Arda Transau respectively.
At its official launch in 2012 the trust received initial pledges of US$10 million from each of the five diamond mining companies, and at its launch President Mugabe was made to present a dummy cheque for $50 million.
In Parliament a few weeks ago, Deputy Youth Minister, Mathias Tongofa, revealed that only $250,000 had been released by Marange Resources and a further $200,000 had been paid by Mbada Diamonds to the Zimunya Marange CSOT project.
Trustees of the Zimunya Marange Community CSOT comprise Chief Gilbert Marange, the chairperson, Chief Kibeni Bvirindi Zimunya the secretary, Shepherd Chinaka, the current chief executive officer of Mutare Rural District Council, who is the secretary, and other members selected from different sectors.