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NGOs: Gvt Should Stop Marange Diamond Mining Operations

An illegal diamond dealer from Zimbabwe displays diamonds for sale in Manica, near the border with Zimbabwe, September 19, 2010. (File Photo)
Civil society organizations working in the extractive sector in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland province have called on the government to consider as a matter of urgency halting all mining operations in Marange to allow independent auditing of all firms mining in the controversial fields to avoid leakages they say are prejudicing the state of millions of dollars annually.

Speaking at press briefing in Mutare on Monday, the mining and environment watchdog organizations, the Centre for Research and Development (CRD) and the Zimbabwe Natural Resources Dialogue Forum (ZNRDF) said the government must immediately stop all mining operations in Marange and start afresh to make sure deals reached with firms interested in the diamond do not short-change the country.

CRD acting director James Mupfumi said a geological mineral survey of the Marange diamond fields should be carried out to ascertain the quantum and value of the gems in the area. The survey would be an important negotiation tool for any future engagements with foreign partners, he said.

Mupfumi said the government should expeditiously enact a new minerals policy that promotes accountability and transparency, at the same time safeguarding community rights.

The two organisations also want the government to ensure commitments made to families moved from the fields to Agricultural Rural Development Authority’s Transau area are fulfilled. Most of them are still to receive the decent accommodation they were promised by the mining firms.

Mupfumi said parliament should play an oversight role to scrutinize and recommend mining contracts for strategic national resources like diamonds.

He said civil society orgainizations in Manicaland province are appalled by the way the government has handled and parceled out mining rights to mine diamonds in Marange.

Mupfumi said the vilification of civil society working in the extractive sector by some in the government is regrettable, adding it is common knowledge that the diamonds have benefited only a few and not the country or the Marange community which he said had to endure human rights violations, displacements and environmental degradation to pave way for the mining.

ZNRDF director Freeman Bhoso said future mining ventures in Marange should only be given the green light after ensuring people’s rights would be respected.

Bhoso said the Indeginisation and Economic Empowerment Act’s community share ownership schemes have to be revisited to plug the existing gaps and loopholes that mining companies have been exploiting to avoid compliance.

He said the government must work with other established community-based organizations in Marange and allow communities to choose their own representatives in community ownership schemes.

Bhoso further said as civil society they are ready to work with the government in capacity building to ensure that resources meant for the communities are handled in a transparent manner.

The civil society representatives said the government should engage local civil society and community-based organizations for consensus building on developmental issues and human rights monitoring in the Marange diamond fields.