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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Marange, Chiadzwa and other diamond fields and the Kimberley Process - Index of articles

  • The social, economic and environmental implications of diamond mining in Chiadzwa
    Centre for Research and Development
    April 16, 2013

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    In recent years, the Zimbabwe government has been heavily criticised for controversial macro and micro economic policies that have plummeted the country into a deep economic crisis. The Economic Structural Adjustment of the 1990s, the Fast Track Land Reform and Resettlement Programme (LRRP Fast Track) of the early 2000s, Operation Murambatsvina of 2005 and Operation Chikorokoza Chapera are examples of policies that negatively affected communities. The working class, peasant farmers and the vulnerable were plunged into abject poverty. The United Nations estimates that by the end of 2008 over six million people in Zimbabwe faced severe food shortages and were dependent on emergency international food aid. Only six per cent of rural schools were operating. Fewer than six per cent of the population had jobs. As many as three million people had fled the economic hardships to neighbouring countries and abroad (PAC 2009).

    The economic situation, prevailing since the early 1990s forced many Zimbabweans to look for alternative sources of livelihood. The last two or so decades have seen a large number of artisanal and small scale miners mostly involved in gold and diamond mining. These are regarded as viable sources of a living income because of the high value of the minerals. Despite recognising the importance of these activities as alternative sources of livelihood, the government regard the activities as illegal apart from cases where the small-scale miner has been registered. There are thousands of such cases throughout Zimbabwe.

    Diamond mining in Chiadzwa started as an illegal activity carried out by members of the community who were attempting to find alternative sources of livelihood. It is said that by 2006, De Beers (a South African Diamond Mining Company) had undertaken some feasibility studies and prospecting in Chiadzwa after being granted a prospecting order by the government (The Zimbabwe Independent, October 3, 2006, page1; PAC, 2009). The presence of diamonds was not overtly declared but some illicit visits by De Beers’ staff prompted locals into finding out that there were diamonds in the area. Although locals realised that the stones were valuable, they were not aware of the exact value of the diamonds. For this reason they traded the diamonds for such commodities as soft drinks or cigarettes in what can be said to have been some form of barter trade. However, local community members soon became aware that the mineral was very valuable and this led to what can best be described as ‘a diamond rush.’

    What started as an alternative means of survival soon attracted the attention of the international community with buyers and miners coming from far and wide. When government eventually intervened, many people had already firmly established themselves in the diamond mining and trading activity. It is a dichotomy that at inception the government seem not to realise the illegal activity. Later however, the same government harassed and arrested community members who were involved in diamond mining and trading. The ensuing conflict led to many people being killed during a military clean-up exercise of the area at the end of 2008. Hospital officials at Mutare General Hospital reported on one occasion the arrival of 75 bodies believed to have been killed in the ‘Chiadzwa conflict.’ It is also said that hospitals in other parts of Manicaland Province, including Rusape, Chipinge and Chimanimani had received their own consignments of dead bodies.

    The project sought to document the progression of events in Chiadzwa in terms diamond mining and trading, the socio-economic and environmental impacts and the conflict between authorities, (government agencies) and the local communities. The project has as its objective to inform the degree of adherence to the doctrine of “Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources.” It is hoped that the project will inform community members of their rights in relation to natural resource allocation and development.

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