HARARE – News that diamonds were discovered in Bikita, an area which is fast turning barren and desolate drifted in and out of my mind for the past week.
Most people from that area are still gripped by anxiety as to what the discovery will mean for them.
Most people are just pinning their hopes that the discovery will not be a curse as what happened in other areas where people were relocated to far way places with little or no chance of benefiting in a significant way except being given televised food handouts and “better” houses.
In most cases the discovery of minerals in an area will attract a lot of people from other places seeking to eke out a living.
This will bring in different cultures which may either be good or bad.
No matter what is going to happen, the discovery of the precious mineral should benefit the area through the various opportunities for the local community.
This may sound to be a very optimistic view which might remain a dream if the now murky and unpopular community ownership schemes are also implemented in Bikita.
If they follow such a path then there is nothing for the common man as they are left out in the definition of a community.
It has become fashionable to think that chiefs represent the community and by giving chiefs the custodial role then the benefits of any community process will trickle down to each and every person.
In most cases chiefs represent their own interest like any normal human being.
Chiefs are both the people and community; they benefit disproportionately from any programme and enjoy the fruits of the labour of the common people through exorbitant fines which they impose on minor transgressions which individuals commit.
Chiefs in the remote and hinterlands can be mistaken for chief justices in the manner they demand certain things from their “subjects”. People in Bikita have perennially been affected by drought for the past six years, roads are in poor state, schools need adequate resources, health facilities are precarious as people have to travel to either Mashoko Misson or Silveira Mission to get decent health care, access to clean water remains a pipe dream and poverty and school dropout rate continues to spiral.
With the prospect of huge diamond deposits, many will be hoping that some of the pressing needs like hunger will be addressed but it will be foolish to think food handouts will be the way to go.
If given the opportunity to choose between getting employed in the mine and being shareholders in the mining companies, many will choose the former.
People would rather work and get the resources to improve their lives and empower themselves to start income generating projects rather than being told that “we” collectively own this company and that all the proceeds will be channelled to benefit everyone. Human beings by nature do not live tomorrow; they live today and would want to see tangible benefits of any process.
Hate or like him, RBZ governor Gideon Gono’s argument makes sense, the supply side model is the one that can turn this county into a hive of activity with benefits that will accrue to most people as it gives them some room to participate in one way or the other.
If every individual is a shareholder and a boss then who will do the actual work that generates the much-sought after wealth?
Experience is the best teacher, the current war on the relevance of the community share ownership and indigenisation models seem to confirm that indeed the process has been invaded by selfish carpetbaggers.
The only way diamonds will significantly change the face of Bikita will be through the opportunities for employment and infrastructural development in the area rather than mysterious community ownership schemes which people will have no control of. – Wellington Gadzikwa