By Kenneth Matimaire
THE Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) has committed to renovate Arda Transau Relocation Area houses that were poorly constructed by former diamond firms amid frustrations from villagers over the delay of the exercise.
ZCDC had promised to kick-start the reconstruction of Arda Transau in October last year when it toured the resettlement area a month earlier in the company of officials from the Kimberly Process Certificate Scheme (KPCS), the Ministry of Mines and parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines.
However, inquiries revealed that the State-owned miner is yet to roll out its rehabilitation exercise – a scenario that has not gone down well with the former Marange villagers.
Arda Transau Relocation Development Trust (ATRDT) member and community elder, Henry Mawoneke lamented that ZCDC has not made a courtesy call to inform them on the status of the programme which they promised to have rolled out six months ago.
Mawoneke said ZCDC appears to be taking up from the former Marange diamond miners that constantly lied to the villagers.
“ZCDC has taken up from the former miners to lie to us. They came around September last year with the Parliamentary portfolio committee on Mines together with officials from KPCS and made big promises.”
“They promised to attend to our legacy concerns of sub-standard houses which have become a death trap. They promises to start attending to them by October. The chief executive officer (Mark Mabhudhu) made the promises. But they have not set foot here since then,” said Mawoneke.
Moses Mujaji – a Zanu PF councillor for Ward 3, which encompass Arda Transau confirmed the development adding that 60% of the relocation areas structures were sub-standard.
“Yes. ZCDC came here last year and said a contractor was coming in October to work on the houses and roads but they haven’t. We don’t know what’s going on. But the situation here is serious. 60% of the houses have developed dangerous cracks and it’s becoming dangerous for people to continue to live in such houses,” said Mujaji.
Records from the District Administrator’s office revealed that a total of 1 100 houses were jointly constructed by former Marange diamond miners at a cost of US$50 000 each.
The miners include Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Company, Jinan Mining, Gye Nyame, Kusena Diamonds and Anjin Investments, which bounced back three years ago.
Technically, this means that 660 houses are in need of major renovations or rebuilding after developing severe cracks due to suspected poor workmanship.
Mujaji said the relocation exercise was hastily done with no inspections carried out and subjected the settlement to shoddy work.
“When the (mining) companies were building houses, they said they had their own contractors and inspectors and no proper checks and balances were undertaken because the whole process was rushed,” said Mujaji.
The former Marange firms piled the blame on the contracted construction entities for shortchanging them, which led former Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa to declare the houses substandard when he toured the area in March 2016.
Chidhakwa went on to promise to reign in the contractors to redo their job at their own expense and up to the satisfaction of government.
He was subsequently removed from office following the November 2017 military assisted coup without fulfilling the pledge.
However, the ZCDC boss said they remain committed to their promise, which they said has been delayed by the country’s procurement regulatory framework.
“We are still working on that commitment to fix the Arda Transau roads and houses. At this stage, we are waiting the final approval which needs to be accorded by PRAZ (Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe) on the final contract prices,” said Mabhudhu.
“This is a commitment ZCDC will not renege on as a corporate citizen. We are driven to get all the community related challenges resolved expeditiously, but such work has got to be executed within the auspices of the regulatory framework,” he added.
Mabhudhu also pointed out that the delay was partly to do with funding as the State miner that took over Arda Transau has not been selling diamond for the past seven months until now.
He indicated that the rehabilitation of the houses require huge funding, which the State miner anticipate to generate through diamond sales.
Meanwhile government is yet to release the names of the contracted firms.
Both the secretary for provincial affairs and devolution Edgar Seenza and district development coordinator William Boore said they will try to gather information on the issue as they were appointed long after Arda Transau was established.