The last History Monday, we spoke about the international response to the allegations in the Marange Diamond Fields. This week we shall end by talking about the impact on the enviroment and the villagers.
After the government had secured the diamond fields in Marange, the government of Zimbabwe in 2009 forcibly relocated over 4000 families to Arda Transu, (a government owned farm 40km away from Marange). Some of the families were lucky enough to get decent housing but there was a marked lack for adequate land for cultivation and pastures for livestock. All relocated families were subsistence farmers and the footbal pitch sized plots they had been given were barely enough.
The Save River was the source of life for the villagers in Marange. It provided fish, drinking water for humans and animals alike as well as any other things such as domestic chores, bathing, recreation (swimming) and just as the Nile is plush land to farm so had been the Save riverbanks.
A 2012 study commissioned by the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA) and undertaken by the University of Zimbabwe shows that diamond operations are releasing dangerous chemicals into the Save River. This affects those who live downstream from the river. The study concluded that communities could no longer use the water for drinking purposes whilst direct skin contact with the water or mud would cause a skin irritation. There was even evidence of the villagers possibly developing cancer due to the presence of chronium and nickel in the river.
Digging boreholes or digging for water in the sand proved to be fruitless with these reserviors quickly drying up. The water table had also been affected. This had many implications on not just the villagers but the wildlife habitat as well.
There is also serious air pollution in the area with a continual cloud of dust descending over the village. This has brought about a valid fear for turberculosis due to dust inhalation. Active 24hour mining also causes noise pollution causiong distress to the wildlife habitat and the villagers themselves.
The BBC has reported on an alleged torture camp run by security forces operating in the Marange area. The BBc found that the main camp was called locally, ‘Diamond Base.’ There were reports that it was a remote collection near Zengeni, made up of military tents located within a razor wire enclosure.
One victim spoke to the BBC and said that it was a place of torture where prisoners were regularly whipped 120 times in a day. These camps have been operating for close to three years, it is alleged. One former member of the military unit based at the camp claimed to have used mock drowning, dog maulings and whipping as a means of punishment for the prisoners.
With the involvement of the military and governmental elite, it is right near impossible for the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) to impose appropriate regulation and assure the environment remains of paramount concern for stakeholders involved. The EMA is continually undermined by special grants governemental entities receive from their government beneficiaries. Who suffers due to this miscarriage of public office? well its the people and the environment and the poor animals that have no voice.
After three History Mondays what have we learnt?
Well, Marange Diamond Fields are a national treasure that has become a personal bank for those in power. The international response has amounted to nothing and who is suffering?
Well the villagers becaiuse they have no home, they are made to work under gunpoint; political prisoners who now work in the fields under torture camps and finally the people of Zimbabwe who are watching whilst its resources are being plundered. The nation is starving whilst the one resource that could singlehandedly lift the country’s woes is being stripped to fill individual purses.
Have I given you the motivation go read up for yourself? I hope so. Nothing can defeat an educated mind. Educate yourself on your country’s past, only then can you truly make an impact on its future.
Next History Monday I will begin my series on the History of Zimbabwe: What events shaped our country.
Till next time
- The Africa Report, 12/12/12. “The story of Zimbabwe’s Marange diamonds: Pollution, Politics, Power.”
- BBC News 08/08/2011. “Marange diamond field: Zimbabwe torture camp discovered.”
- The Daily Mail, 19/09/2009. “The return of the bloody diamonds: Miners at gunpoint in Zimbabwe.”
- Global Witness, 13/02/2012. “Diamonds: A good deal for Zimbabwe.”
- Wikipedia. “Marange Diamond Fields.”