For Displaced Villagers in Zimbabwe, Diamonds Are No Friend

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MUTARE, ZIMBABWE — Zimbabwean villagers displaced more than a decade ago to make way for a joint government and Chinese-run diamond mine are still waiting for promised compensation and proper housing.

About 1,200 families were displaced to make way for diamond mining, with diamond companies building houses for them. The houses look decent, but residents say looks can deceive.

Among the displaced is 81-year-old Nickson Zihu, who invites outsiders — especially representatives of the diamond mines and the government — to take a closer look before believing that.

“I wish one of them would come and spend a night in the house so that they actually feel it,” Zihu said. “Because just mere talking doesn’t make them understand, so they must come and sleep in there.”

Chinese mining company Anjin Investments (Pvt) Ltd. and government-owned Marange Resources have the most lucrative diamond claim in Marange area — about 400 kilometers east of Harare.

Anjin spokesman Special Matarirano said mining companies are aware of the displaced villagers’ concerns.

“Our sister company, the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company, has pledged and vowed to resuscitate and refurbish those houses,” Matarirano said.

Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company is a government-owned enterprise.

Besides inadequate housing, the displaced villagers complain about a lack of clean drinking water and having just one hectare for subsistence farming compared to vast sections of land they left in Marange.

The Zimbabwean government insists it is responding and alleviating concerns.

“There are huge interventions which have been taking place around that area,” said Winston Chitando, Zimbabwe’s minister of mines and mining development.

“The long and short of it is there is good work which is happening. There were interruptions due to COVID which affected production and revenue of the company.”

When reporters visited the area, there was no evidence of any work taking place.

Meanwhile, Zihu is keeping up his calls for government officials to come and experience for themselves the misery he said he endures.