Home » Health » Chiadzwa Villagers Battle Malaria Outbreak

A malaria outbreak is wreaking havoc on an already embattled Chiadzwa community around the Marange diamond fields with members of almost every household suffering from the disease.

Numerous puddles of stagnant water caused by excessive rains that submerged the alluvial diamond mining pits which have not been rehabilitated have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, rendering the Chiadzwa villagers prone to contracting malaria.

“Almost every home has no less than three to five people who are suffering from malaria. This is because of the pools that have been created by diamond mining,” said the Minister of State for Manicaland Province, Chris Mushohwe. He said a team from the Provincial Medical Director (PMD)’s office was dispatched recently to examine the villagers.

“I instructed the Provincial Administrator (Fungai Mbetsa) to call the PMD to send a team to Chiadzwa and Mkwada areas,” Mushohwe said.

The community has been battling a myriad of challenges ever since the diamond rush eight years ago. The discovery of diamonds in 2006 was expected to bring development to the mineral rich community of Marange, but instead villagers have found that the diamond find actually marked the beginning of misfortunes.

Reports and studies have unearthed the sad tale of the Chiadzwa community whose area has been rendered a mineral exploitation zone without any developmental gains to it. The studies further reveal that some villagers have been killed, tortured, sodomised, exposed to health hazards such as malaria outbreaks and water contamination. Having been promised development on their doorstep, the villagers were lured out of their ancestral settlement under the false pretext of greener pastures in the Arda Transau resettlement area.

Over 1,000 households have been relocated to Arda while 4,300 families are yet to be relocated. The Chiadzwa households have been exposed to severe health hazards while those relocated to Arda Transau have no means of survival. Moreover, some villagers are stationed less than 400 metres away from the diamond mining fields while others are fenced within the sites.

“These people had their animals in the mining area and they sniff dust from the mining sites every day. This will affect them although they might seem fit now,” said Mushohwe.

Investigations carried out by the Financial Gazette indicated that Gandauta School is fenced right in the diamond mining field. This exposes the children and their surrounding families to inhuman conditions with serious health implications. Medical experts stated that there are more than 11 types of pneumoconiosis diseases caused by sniffing dust. Another villager, Isaac Ziwenjere said apart from the diseases, their areas have been reduced to breeding grounds for prostitution and theft.

“Illegal panners from all over the country come here (Chiadzwa) to try their luck. Most of them end up stranded and steal our livestock and crops to raise funds for their return bus fares.

“To make matters worse, our villages have been reduced to breeding grounds for prostitution. Commercial sex workers come to cash in on the diamond workers and panners here,” said Ziwenjere.

Yet another villager and labour activist, Matthew Sunguro, said several workers employed by Anjin have been sodomised by their foreign superiors. “There are several cases of men who have been sodomised in Chiadzwa. I know some of the victims personally. I even offered to represent them but they refused in fear of losing their jobs,” said Sunguro. To make matters worse, the villagers said they have nothing to show for it in terms of personal gains or community development at a time when companies are extracting diamonds from their area.

There are also some environmental concerns associated with mining. Diamond Mining Company (DMC), Anjin Investments and Marange Resources, were taken to the High Court in 2012 by villagers in the area over the pollution of Save River. The villagers were represented by the Zimbabwe Environment Lawyers Association. According to the Environmental Management Agency provincial manager, Kingston Chitotombe, Anjin and Marange Resources have long complied with environmental regulations while DMC is still in the process. The firm is said to be finalising the installation of a thickener, which separates solids and water.

A snap survey carried out by the Financial Gazette indicated that there is only one hospital in the area — Marange Hospital. The health institution is in an appalling state. The clinics there are sub-standard and under-stocked. Moreover, the diamond rich area’s road network is poor. Only 10 kilometres of the Odzi-Marange road is tarred while all other road networks are not.

“We thought that when the diamond miners came, our lives were going to change for the better. We thought our area was going to be developed. But we are still waiting for that day to come,” said one villager.

Families relocated from the controversial Chiadzwa diamond fields are singing the blues in their new settlement — Arda Transau — where they have no means of survival. The villagers said their relocation has reduced them to occasional beggars who are now dependent on handouts from the diamond firms yet they used to be self-reliant. They were only given a paltry compensation of US$1,000. Mining expert, Mutuso Dhliwayo, said relocation should come at a cost that benefits the affected, which is not the case in Chiadzwa.

“The principles of relocation and compensation should provide a better option for the affected communities. They should be positioned in a better set-up than they were considering that they left their ancestral homes and graveyards.

“But if you look at Chiadzwa, it is not the case. They were only given a paltry US$1,000 as compensation. To make matters worse, they have no proper means of survival in Arda,” said Dhliwayo. The villagers have since petitioned the powers-that-be in Manicaland Province seeking redress. The chairperson of the villagers resettled by Anjin at Arda, Timothy Ndamera, said villagers were unable to embark on any meaningful life sustaining project since they are unemployed.

“Some cannot buy stationery for their school children because they are poor. They are surviving from hand to mouth. We have petitioned the relevant authorities to empower us with income generating projects so that we can be self-reliant,” said Ndamera. – Kenneth Matimaire

Source : Financial Gazette