Hard strapped Marange communities turn to sheltering illegal miners for cash

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As the economy continues to tumble, some rural communities have resorted to harbouring illegal miners and traders from authorities in exchange for cash to help cushion themselves against poverty, a report has revealed.

The report titled ‘Illicit Trading In Minerals and Mineral Leakages’ was presented in Parliament by the Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services on the security of minerals.

It revealed that some communities close to Marange diamond fields were aiding smugglers of the precious stone to make ends meet.

Following the Committee tour of the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) and Anjin Investments, it was noted that the presence of artisanal diamond miners pointed to the prevalence of incidents of smuggling.

“The presence of artisanal diamond miners in the Marange diamond concessions pointed to the prevalence of incidents of smuggling happening outside the diamond concession owned by the two companies,” read the report.

“Representatives of Anjin Investments, ZCDC and ZRP informed the Committee that the major perpetrators of the smuggling of diamonds were the mining communities who provided shelter to the illegal miners.

“Spokespersons for the local community casually admitted that they offered shelter to illegal miners to cushion themselves against the unbearable economic hardships,” the report said.

According to the report, the communities bemoaned the lack of community development and related empowerment programmes.

“Some even openly expressed their disgruntlement over their debilitating socioeconomic status and pledged to continue harbouring illicit diamond mining and trading activities until the State and all responsible authorities took action to improve their wellbeing through community development and related empowerment programmes,” read the report.

The committee also noted that the diamonds recovered by unlicensed miners and traders ultimately evaded the formal diamond value chain, possibly finding their way into Mozambique en route to Europe and the Arab world.

The community, according to the report, alleged that there were cases of connivance between private mine guards and either licenced miners or underpaid mine employees leading to diamond leakages.

The committee further observed that a full exploration of the Marange area had not been done, as a result, the area remained vulnerable to incidents of smuggling of diamonds.

MMCZ also highlighted that there was a legislative gap to integrate artisanal diamond miners so that all diamonds could be channelled through the formal system.

According to the Civil Society Organisations cited in the report, the failure of mining companies to relocate villagers living in diamond concessions and the lack of fencing to block unlicensed miners’ access contributed to diamond leakages.

“Delays in operationalizing the Community Diamond Concession and the five per cent equity granted to the Community by the Zimbabwe Diamond Policy. This has created dissatisfaction amongst villagers, hence they are not willing to assist in curbing diamond leakages,” the report added.

The report also fingered law enforcement agencies’ involvement in organizing syndicates with unlicensed miners and traders, especially in the green zones while being reluctant to intercept illegal diamond miners and buyers at roadblocks. — _*NewZimbabwe*_

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