Defeated Murowa Diamonds finally bows out of Chivi

…leaves behind trail of environmental damage

Upenyu Chaota

The cat and mouse relationship which existed between the Sese community of Ward 20 in Chivi and Murowa Diamonds Company has finally come to an end after the latter, which was accused of all sorts of ills including noise pollution and destructive exploration methods, ended their controversial work in the community.

Murowa Diamonds Company ‘invaded’ Chivi in 2017 much to the dissatisfaction of villagers who mounted a resistance campaign against the firm’s activities.

The diamonds company first arrived in Chivi accompanied by the former minister of State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs Josiah Hungwe back in 2017, a relationship which protected the company.

Murowa Diamonds Company vice president human resources and administration Islam Chipango told EnviroPress that they were leaving Chivi not because their exploration yielded nothing but because of the conflict with the community.

“When we first came to Chivi, we were not welcomed by the community. They were resisting everything about us starting with the location of our base of operation.

“We were camped at Danhamombe High School and they accused us of disturbing learners and making a lot of noise. The school also said that it wanted to build structures at the site on which we had set-up camp. We then realised that we cannot stand in the way of progress so we decided to leave,” said Chipango.

He said the company would come back if given a new site on which to set camp as promised by the Chivi Rural District Council (RDC).

“The local authority (Chivi RDC) promised to find us another area where we can set up our base of operations and we wait to hear from them. Once that land is secured, we will be back exploring,” said Chipango.

Asked about the destructive mining methods they used in their exploration and what they did to reclaim the environment which they destroyed, Chipango said they fixed everything they damaged and as a sign of good faith, they even went on to donate 5 000 litres of diesel to Chivi RDC to fix roads in the district.

“We reclaimed the environment we damaged. We repaired everything we destroyed and went on to donate 5 000 litres of diesel to Chivi RDC for them to use in road rehabilitation exercises in the district,” said Chipango.

Chivi RDC chairperson Godfrey Mukungunugwa could not be drawn to comment on the matter as he told EnviroPress that he was in Harare.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development went to Chivi on October 1 on a fact finding mission but failed to bring the community and the mining company onto the same page.

The community accused the committee of siding with the mining company.

Chivi Central legislator Emphraim Gwanongodza said he never met any representative of the mine since they started operations and he only had an opportunity to hear from them when the parliamentary portfolio committee visited recently.

“It was a deadlock, the community did not want the diamond company at all. The diamond company should have engaged the community before coming to set-up camp.

“I was never engaged by the company in any way. All I heard were the complaints from the community and all the efforts I tried to engage the company hit a brick wall. The company executives were rude and at some point I went to their offices and was sent from pillar to post without yielding any result,” said Gwanongodza.

Businessperson Alex Mashamhanda, who claims to be the one who has been footing all the legal costs on behalf of the community, told EnviroPress that the community was very clear from the onset that they did not want Murowa Diamonds Company in their area.

“We were very clear from the beginning but they did not listen. They thought that going through the then minister of State for Masvingo (Hungwe) would insulate them from any form of resistance.

“They caused a lot of damage to the environment and we are now busy dealing with that and it is a lie if they say they fixed and reclaimed the damages they did to the environment.

“The community was very clear and we stand together,” said Mashamhanda.

He said the community preferred farming to mining.

“I come from the same community which mounted a resistance against Murowa Diamonds Company.

“I footed the legal costs as we took the company to court numerous times. Recently, we grilled them at the administrative court. Those guys are cons and we honestly do not know what they were doing here.

“There are no diamonds here and they need to be investigated to ascertain what they were doing because they found nothing,” said Mashamhanda.

EnviroPress established that RioZim Limited once explored the same area for diamonds back in 2001 and established that there were no diamonds of commercial value.

This report was made possible through support from WAN-IFRA Media Freedom’s Strengthening African Media Programme: Climate Change and Environmental Reporting. Views expressed here do not belong to WAN-IFRA.