MARANGE – Thick clouds of red dust billow into the sky in the distance. Suddenly a monster diamond ore dump truck emerges leaving us choking in a swirling storm of dirt.
Without frequent rains to dampen the soil, government-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Mining Company (ZCDMC)’s mining activities have coated the roadside vegetation, rocks and villages with so much dust that they are now a ghastly dull sight of grime.
One would assume it’s lifeless.
More than a dozen of these machines beat up dust all day as they shuttle between diamond concessions unifying them to the horrors of more than 3 300 families still trapped in the 80 000 hectare Marange diamond fields.
With his face covered in dust and lumbering along in the sweltering heat, a villager who declined to be named for fear of victimisation said they were being held hostage by government.
“We are hostages of government greed. They should just move us and then do whatever they want with our ancestral lands. We no longer have hope of any economic benefit anyway,” the elderly Chiadzwa village man said.
The consolidation of mining companies has apparently complicated the welfare of locals.
Augustine Majaya says this has suddenly increased the volume of vehicles between previously independent concessions.
“When companies were joined, dump trucks are now taking diamond ore from Anjin and Marange Resources concessions to a DMC (Diamond Mining Company) plant passing through villages some of which were as yet unaffected,” Majaya said.
These villagers want out but their long wait for relocation continues to drag despairingly into an uncertain future. .
Government only availed space adequate for the relocation of only 1 800 in Arda Transau, out of the 4 300 affected families.
The space is only adequate to accommodate 10 villages with government struggling to secure space for another 21 villages, according to provincial administrator Fungai Mbetsa.
Former Manicaland provincial governor and local MP Christopher Mushowe said, back in 2012 they were looking for space to move the villagers as a block so as to preserve their culture and tradition rather than dispersing them across the country.
“The villagers in Marange (diamond field) as I’m talking to you are sleeping without food, their children are not going to school and there are very few clinics. Their clinics do not have even the commonest tablet and yet they sniff dust 24 /7 within the mining area… I go there (Marange) every week and I see these people everyday heading their animals in the mining area and all the dust they are sniffing will affect them at one point in time,” Mushowe said.
But even on the availed space, only about 1 000 families were moved as diamond mining companies prioritised extracting the gems over incurring relocation costs.
Mbetsa is on record saying the relocations were complicated by a lack of consultation between the licensing authority and his office.
Chiadzwa villagers this week were piling stones onto roads to slow down the often speeding government-owned dump trucks as their patience wanes in the dust.
“Mukwada, Tarindwa and Chiadzwa villages are the most affected and everything is now under a thick film of dust. So villages tried to install humps using wheel barrows but they were being flattened in no time so they are now using huge rocks,” Majaya said.
Majaya said the contemptuous disregard of villagers’ welfare by dump truck drivers who would speed through the villages leaving locals choking is painful.
A member of Marange Development Trust (MDT)’s Dorcas Chiadzwa said they have taken the lead in taking truck drivers head on.
“Our fear is that we will have respiratory diseases because the dust is just too much. We will not say much about the noise pollution because there is little we can do,” Chiadzwa said.
Chiadzwa admits that the classification of the area as a protected area and the return of the military and police has placed the area under a strict curfew than the one that existed when multiple mining companies were operating.
“We are under a curfew. Anyone who moves around after 7pm risks arrest,” she said.