MARANGE — Over 3 000 people are virtually trapped in the high-security Chiadzwa diamond fields because the authorities are not allowing them to move freely in the fields as they await their relocation.
From as far back as 2008, when the diamond rush broke out in Chiadzwa, the gem-rich zone has been classified as a protected area under the Protected Places and Areas Act.
In terms of the Act, locals are given clearance letters that expire monthly by the police to allow them to move around and access their homes.
The application of the Act has, however, stripped the natives of their liberties as enshrined in the Constitution’s bill of rights.
But while the locals have basically been confined to their homes, mining companies have been allowed to extract the gems before they even relocate the villagers.
Locals and human rights groups are seething with anger, blaming government for putting the interests of miners ahead of those of local communities.
Arda Transau, the only space availed for relocation, can only accommodate 1 800 out of the 4 300 affected families.
The local legislator and Information minister, Christopher Mushohwe, who has always been critical of their status, is livid about their continued confinement.
“Our people are confined in concessions, sometimes in fences, and their livestock has no grazing areas,” he said, adding that the people “should at least be assisted by being given jobs as they do not have any alternative sources of livelihood”.
Often choking in dust from the mining activities, the families face several health risks.
Despite their anger, many of the villagers cannot protest against the authorities because of the menacing presence of State security agents.
A miffed Marange villager, Crispen Tonhorai, said it was being inconsiderate for government to give the villagers clearance letters that expire after a month and yet this was their home.
“You can imagine being told you cannot go back home until you produce a permit that you have to constantly go to Mutare to get in order to have permission to stay in your own house,” queried Tonhorai.
Headman Chiadzwa said the establishment of mining operations in the community has left children having to walk long distances to go to school, while girls were being preyed on by illegal diamond diggers, dealers and male mine workers.
“The long distances to secondary schools are making our girls particularly vulnerable and we would appreciate if government could have a school opened at Rombe as it has remained closed two years after its construction,” Chiadzwa said.
Lack of consultations in the issuing of mining licences has created chaos as different mining companies are cherry picking areas they would want to operate in and haphazardly displace people.
“We cannot effectively plan as we live under the constant threat of being moved. We have been living in suspense for nearly 10 years now,” another villager, who preferred anonymity, said.
A 2012 Mines and Energy parliamentary portfolio committee report touched on the matter saying “some households still living in Marange suspended most of their livelihoods such as farming on the grounds that they would be relocated. As a result, this caused anxiety and food insecurity within the community”.
The report also confirmed that requests to be moved had been made as people wanted to live their lives freely.
The Marange fields stretch over 80 000 hectares with diamonds deposits estimated in billions of dollars, but these astronomical figures mean very little for the now ‘‘trapped’’ villagers.
Daring rustlers resale cattle in Mozambique
MARANGE — Cattle rustling is on the rise here, with daring thieves driving stolen beasts for sell, tens of kilometres across the border into neighbouring Mozambique.
The cattle rustlers are also selling stolen livestock in Buhera, and other communities within and around Manicaland province.
The startling revelations was made by headman Chiadzwa during a tombstone unveiling and cleansing ceremony at Chitangazuva reburial site last week.
“There is rampant cattle theft. Some are even taking the stolen cattle as far as Mozambique,” Chiadzwa said.
The escalating stock theft comes as unemployment is rampant in the diamond-rich area, with the headman making an impassioned plea to government to prioritise locals in employment and training opportunities.
“Please, hire my people, they will not steal from you,” he said, as he responded to accusations that locals involved in illegal mining were a security risk.
He also pleaded for the conversion of an accommodation complex built by Jinan, which has over 20 blocks, into a college.
“Can this infrastructure be turned into a college and be used to equip locals with skills that would be required in mining operations and support services,” the traditional leader said.
The Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) has conceded that there was need to empower locals through employment.
“We agreed with the local leaders that we employ from the community…we will make sure to employ 50 percent of our workforce from Manicaland,” said ZCDC chief executive, Morris Mpofu.
The lack of jobs has been an emotive issue among locals who feel sidelined.
Death doesn’t move apostolic sect men
MALE members of the ultra-conservative Johanne Marange apostolic sect stand accused of being cold-hearted to the extent of allowing their children to be decimated by preventable diseases without even batting an eye.
Scores of the sect’s children have died from preventable and treatable diseases such as malaria, cholera, and measles, yet their fathers do not flinch from their position not to use conventional medicine.
When one of the church’s local leaders, Arnold Muzariwetu, died a few years ago, the news made for depressing reading.
Muzariwetu was survived by only 25 children out of the 101 he had with his 11 wives.
Most of his children had succumbed to preventable diseases.
Among his wives, one of them had given birth 10 times, but all her progeny passed on due to treatable diseases.
To outsiders, Muzariwetu is an epitome of the sect’s lack of regard for the lives of their children.
It is being argued by maternal and child health campaigners that women who belong to the sect could have gone out of their way to save their children if they were the decision-makers.
Sadly, it is their husbands who call the shots and, because of their beliefs, they do not allow their wives to give their children access to modern medical care.
The general perception that holds sway is that males consider bearing children as no more than a brick-moulding enterprise whereby a dead child can be replaced by another birth.
Maternal and child health campaigns are now gaining currency in the area, harping on this.
“Men are hard-hearted so we are targeting women who feel the pain of labour and are hurt more with the deaths of their children than men,” said headman Chisuko, a Mutasa Village head, who is taking part in a Plan International-funded Women And Their Children’s Health project.
“Even if a wife dies, most of these men are not moved because they will remain with many others”.
And they are making headway.
Catharine Sanhanga, who at 32, had given birth 11 live times but only has three of her children surviving, was an easy convert.
Sanhanga vows never to sacrifice her children’s life for religion.
“I now consult professional health care providers because losing a child really hurts,” she says.
But not with men from her sect!
One, Arnold Saungweme had 10 out of his 60 children with his eight wives, reburied at Chitangazuwa reburial site in Chiadzwa.
While his family was spared by the devastating cholera outbreak of 2008, 10 of his children have succumbed to other treatable diseases.
A sociable fellow, who looks younger than his 50 years, Saungweme shared his secret to his endurance.
Beyond prayer, he credits his young looks to his diet.
Having moved to St Kelvin, just a stone’s throw from Chipinge town, he survives on subsistence farming, which provides all the food needed to keep his family going.
“I fled hunger. My family was growing and we hardly had enough to eat,” he said, adding he has no plans to rethink his stance on modern medicine.
He also shows little remorse for the 10 children who he said died over a number of years mostly before their fifth birthday due to “childhood illnesses like measles”.
“It’s not being cruel. Everyone has their own life and how they want to live it and look after the welfare of their children. We believe in anointed water… people are hit by vehicles and suffer broken bones and are healed by water.
“We believe in Jesus’s holy name. That faith is enough for us and that is how we chose to live our lives,” Saungweme said.
“If we are so wrong why are people flocking to get anointing water from prophets for ailments that you say are best managed by medical professionals?
“It’s clear that with faith all conditions can be healed and that is what I’m sticking to,” Saungweme said.
He insists though that he is touched by the loss of any of his children.
“I’m pained because that is not what one would have expected. If they had lived, I could have grown my clan,” he said.
“I remember that while others would stand in class and say they wanted to be this and that (after finishing school), I would stand and say I wanted to marry 12 wives and have a big family,” he says with a laugh.
“My father had four wives and 12 children and I saw the beauty of belonging to a big family then because we completely dominated the school.”
He is short of four wives to reach his dream of 12.
His church is one of an estimated 160 apostolic sects that require their members to seek healing via prayer and faith and completely reject conventional medicine.
Even children are denied immunisation.
Although there has not been a definitive research on the sect, a 2011 United Nations Children’s Education Fund report estimated that 2,5 million people belong to the church.
This is about a fifth of Zimbabwe’s population of 13 million.
Destroyed bridge rebuilt after 16 years
THE Zimbabwe National Roads Adminstration (Zinara) has completed the rehabilitation of Chitinha Bridge, in partnership with Chimanimani Rural District Council, more than 16 years after it was damaged by Cyclone Eline.
The bridge, commissioned by the permanent secretary in the ministry of Rural Development, George Magosvongwe, will make it easy for villagers to access critical services such as clinics, schools and markets for their produce.
“The new bridge brings improved mobility for farmers who can now easily receive agricultural inputs under various government programmes such as the Presidential Inputs Scheme and Command Agriculture. Also, it will give them more room to secure markets for their produce such as tomatoes, beans and wheat,” Magosvongwe said.
With Zinara improving on its disbursements, council has been making steady progress in repairing roads and bridges, previously damaged by the torrential rains back in 2000.
Strategic bridges such as Nyahode in Rusitu Valley were given priority and have long been rehabilitated.
Magosvongwe heaped praise on the locals for their contribution in the rehabilitation of the bridge.
“It is humbling and inspiring to appreciate the overwhelming participation of communities, from the inception to completion of the work we have to commission.
“The community contributed immensely through the provision of locally-available resources and labour,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Chayamiti community finally got piped water for the first time since 1980 following the commissioning of a solar-powered high-yielding borehole by a leading non-governmental organisation.
Speaking during the commissioning of the Chayamiti Piped Water Scheme, mechanised by World Vision recently, Magosvongwe challenged the local community to protect and maintain the borehole.
“You should not expect anybody from Harare to maintain your borehole . . . you should not expect anyone to come to Harare and guarantee the details of your health, preserve your own water infrastructure,” he said.
The solar-powered piped water scheme has a distribution network of 9.8km and is supplying water to five institutions which serve nearly 1 000 people everyday. Key institutions are Chayamiti primary and secondary and Dokotoko primary schools as well as the local clinic which serves at least 30 patients each day.
Magosvongwe said locals should also preserve any other public infrastructure.
“If you have a road being graded, preserve that infrastructure so that at community level you will be able to guarantee your own existence in spite of the pressures that may come against a country,” he added.
The permanent secretary took a dig at politicians for failing to deliver on their promises saying that was often the source of poor service delivery.
“You beg for our votes and we are going to reply you by placing a demand for tarring of some of our main roads around here going into communal areas,” the senior civil servant said.
School losing pupils to child marriages
CHIMANIMANI – Chinotumenyere Secondary School — a remote learning institution situated here — is losing an average of four girls each term to child marriages.
Concerned parents and guardians alleged this week that some of the teachers and law enforcement agents operating in the area were partly to blame for the early child marriages.
“In Shinja, girls are being married while in form One and Two. Every term there are at least four drop outs,” a note submitted by the concerned parents to Eastern News reads in part.
Most of these cases go unreported.
The note had a list of children the parents considered as gifted but are running the risk of dropping out of school or being married early, due to poverty.
A child protection committee member at the school, Bogy Munoriarwa, confirmed that the school’s authorities had battled to save the girl child from predatory men, without success.
“The committee is really concerned about the level of sexual abuse at the school and we have raised our complaints at district level as the complaints we have raised locally are not being attended to,” he said.
Munoriarwa also expressed frustration at the authorities’ handling of the issue which he said has been raised with the district child protection committee — a body with representatives from various State and non-governmental organisations with interests in child rights issues.
A parent that spoke off the record claimed that because the school is located in a remote part of the country, police and teachers were doing as they please with the girls.
The parents said family members were not making the situation any better as they are also marrying them off at a rate of one per month.
“Last year, the school lost 13 girls to early marriages . . . When the school invites police officers (to investigate these cases), they then unashamedly walk away with their own girls for abuse and our complaints are not being attended to anywhere,” the parent said.