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Marange area produces 4m carats of diamonds annually…but villagers wallow in poverty

CENTRE for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) has reported “grinding” poverty in the heart of one of the nation’s top diamond producing areas, Marange, which generates four million carats annually.

Located in Chiadzwa, Mutare district, the Marange diamond fields are home to widespread artisanal diamond miners. Some have speculated that this area may hold one of the world’s richest diamond deposits, but estimates of the reserves vary widely.

According to the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe, diamond production reached 5,3 million carats last year, a 97,02% increase from 2021, with 5,5 million carats expected by year end.

However, despite this, CNRG, in a statement made at the 2023 Kimberley Process Intersessional meeting that began on Saturday and is expected to end today in Victoria Falls, said the community in that area was yet to benefit from the diamond find.

“The biggest concern with regards to Marange is grinding poverty in a land that produces over four million carats annually of which 10% is gem quality. The discovery of the Marange diamond fields in June 2006 was supposed to be a turnaround for the villages around Marange and the nation at large,” CNRG said.

“There is no evidence to suggest diamond wealth is contributing to poverty reduction in Marange. The Marange Clinic is at an advanced state of dereliction while the roads are impassable due to the footprint of heavy mining vehicles. Transport costs to and from Marange have astronomically risen owing to the poor state of the roads.”

The intersessional meeting is being held by Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition (KPCSC), an umbrella organisation that acts as an observer of the Kimberley Process on behalf of civil society.

According to its website, the coalition includes representatives from Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Lesotho, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe.

The Kimberley Process (KP), on which the coalition is based, is an international commitment by diamond producing countries to remove conflict diamonds from the global supply chain.

KP came up because of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme established in 2003 to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the mainstream rough diamond market by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 55/56 following recommendations in the Fowler Report.

“Despite being a founding member of the KP, the implementation of the Kimberley Process in Zimbabwe has been challenging, and in 2009 Zimbabwe was suspended from selling diamonds on account of human rights violations in Marange. The suspension was lifted in 2011. Some issues have improved but a lot needs to be done,” CNRG said.

“Currently, Zimbabwe is one of the few countries in the KP that has established a working tripartite structure where government, business and civil society regularly meet to exchange ideas and share notes on developments in the sector. This tripartite structure began as Diamond Security Indaba in 2018 following protests in Marange that were organised by CNRG and the Marange community leadership.

“Since the start of the security indabas, reports of serious human rights abuses in Marange have been declining and yet the battle for human rights in Marange is not yet over.”

CNRG called on the government to regularly carry out human rights audits in Marange and perpetrators of abuses, irrespective of their rank or occupation, must be prosecuted, named, and shamed.

“The KP needs to put people first, it has the leverage to do that, and it would make diamonds shine brighter. Here in Zimbabwe, 15 years ago families were displaced from their ancestral homeland in Marange to a government farm called Arda Transau,” the KPCSC said in its opening statement at the meeting.

“The promises that were made for piped water, electricity, land for cultivation, good schools and accommodation for teachers were never lived up to. Today the displaced families are drinking water from an unprotected well. The houses they live in are life threatening due to wide cracks that have developed.

“The families have no alternative livelihoods. The KP Civil Society Coalition is deeply concerned with the living conditions of the displaced families and with the lack of development in Marange itself.” – (Newsday)

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