By Kenneth Matimaire
MUTARE — Chief Marange is bitter over how government has sidelined him on several ministerial tours of Chiadzwa, a diamond-rich area under his jurisdiction.
Recently, there have been several high-profile tours of the diamond fields by Cabinet ministers and other high-ranking government officials, and he was excluded.
Government, last month ordered four diamond companies, Anjin Investments, Jinan Mining, Mbada Diamonds and Diamond Mining Corporation, to cease operations to make way for the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) which is now operational.
Marange Resources, which is wholly government-owned, was the only one which was spared the axe.
The development triggered another diamond rush in Chiadzwa as poverty stricken villagers swarmed the vast concession.
Reports of deaths, violent clashes and illegal panning soon forced top government officials to embark on a series of tours to address the situation.
Last month, Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Walter Chidhakwa, led a delegation comprising Minister of Home Affairs Ignatius Chombo, Provincial Affairs Minister Mandiitawepi Chimene, as well as Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Christopher Mushohwe, who is the sitting legislator for Mutare West, which covers the diamond-rich area.
Chimene also embarked on a separate tour following reports of three illegal diamond panners having died after their shaft collapsed.
In all instances, Chief Marange stated that no invitation was ever extended to him though Headman Chiadzwa, who is his junior in terms of the traditional leadership hierarchy.
Ironically, Chief Marange is one of the two custodians and bank account signatories of the moribund Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust responsible for spearheading development in communities surrounding the mines using proceeds from the diamond mines.
As the mouthpiece of the Marange community, the chief is the medium between the community and government.
However, a bitter Chief Marange said this has not been the case.
The outspoken chief said no official communication has ever been made to him over the new consolidated mining company, ZCDC, the future of the Marange-Zimunya trust under the new system, deaths of illegal panners or the US$15 billion allegedly eternalised from his “backyard”.
“I’m glad that you got hold of me. I’m very disappointed over what is happening here. It appears as if I’m being sidelined in my own land,” lamented Chief Marange.
“It’s said that a lot has happened in my land, but I’m not in the know. I have to hear through rumours or newspapers. Ministers came here, the police chiefs were here, but none of them ever came to my doorstep and have the courtesy to inform me what is going on. They come in my area and they don’t bother to consult or brief me of the nature of their visit. That is very disrespectful,” he charged.
Chief Marange said it was very disturbing to note that Cabinet ministers were disregarding the traditional leadership protocol, which they are fully aware of.
“You can’t come in my land and not inform me. You can’t come to Chiadzwa to deliberate on changes that will directly affect my people and don’t bother to invite or inform me. What happened to protocol? There is high breach of traditional leadership protocol here.
“They can’t tell me that the ministerial delegations have on several times failed to delegate the office of the provincial minister, who would delegate the DA (district administrator) to invite me during these tours. How would they feel if the same is done to them?” an emotional Chief Marange asked.
He argued that it was imperative for government to include him in all its deliberations regarding the future of Chiadzwa since he was the custodian with a mandate to represent and inform his people on developments in his area.
“Right now I know nothing of the new set up (closure of old firms and establishment of a new consolidated company). I know nothing of the deaths that people read of in the newspapers, I know nothing of the stolen US$15 billion because I was not briefed when all this was happening.
“How then can I respond to people here when they come for answers? Who do they approach when we want answers over the status of the (Marange-Zimunya) trust?
“It’s me who they demand answers from. It’s me who has to tell my people to remain calm and patient for government to put its house in order. But the government chose not to acknowledge my role as the chief,” he said.
Chief Marange said had he been involved, he would have informed the ministers of the concerns of the Marange community, which they seem not to be concerned about.
The chief went on to demand government to consider the development of Marange first under the new set up before it is cascaded elsewhere.
“Come to Marange and you will see the state of my people and area; you will see what Marange looks like. You will see that my people are suffering. They don’t have anything to talk about, yet we are told US$15 billion was stolen, yet we are sitting on a diamond concession worth billions.
“As the chief, I’m saying government should prioritise us, the people of Marange, first under the new set up. They should develop Marange first before they can think of any other area because people are not happy here,” he said.
Chief Zimunya is also on record expressing his disappointment over government’s conduct on matters to do with Chiadzwa.
He said despite being the custodians of the diamond-rich area, they have no power to intervene as matters were being handled at government level.
“It’s very sad that the roles of chiefs have been undermined (by government). We no longer have control and respect in our own areas. We are powerless. What is left is just the title.
“We have no say to resources in our own communities, so tell me what our role is as chiefs?” Chief Zimunya asked.
The Marange community is fast running out of patience with government as it becomes clear that development will not come their way despite sitting on a diamond concession worth billions.
Concern has been raised over the future of the Marange-Zimunya Trust since a mere US$400 000 out of the pledged US$50 million found its way into its coffers.
While Chidhakwa has been clear about government’s position for a consolidated diamond mining company in Chiadzwa, the same cannot be said about the future of the trust.
Several demonstrations have been planned against government by disgruntled villagers in Chiadzwa to show their displeasure over what is happening in the mineral-rich area.
Mushohwe is also on record indicating that he once stopped the Marange community from revolting against government over their failure to benefit from Chiadzwa.
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