Sunday, November 29, 2009

Newman Chiadzwa Sets the Record Straight on Zimbabwe Diamonds

Newman Chiadzwa sets the record straight

Zimbabwe Herald

THE discovery of diamonds in the Chiadzwa area of Marange resulted in a glut of illegal panners flooding the district. What followed were tales of murder, aggravated assault and rape cases. The community responded by forming Chiadzwa Mineral Resources to try and benefit from the resources while Government sent security forces to deal with the illegal activities. The Herald caught up with Newman "Chief" Chiadzwa, the chairman of the Chiadzwa Mineral Resources to talk more of the find of the decade.

Q. Who is Newman Chiadzwa? Is he a chief as has been reported?

A. No! I have never claimed to be a chief at any stage in my life.

Q. But who are you?

A. Newman Chiadzwa is a son to Headman Chiadzwa and the current chairman of the development committee, Chiadzwa Mineral Resources.

Q. What does the committee do?

A. We promote development in Chiadzwa especially in relation to the discovery of diamonds in the area and what the community expects from such a discovery.

That is how we came up with the Chiadzwa Community Development Trust (Chiadzwa Mineral Resources), which I chair.

Q. What are these expectations?

A. Our expectations as a community are that we are also given a stake in the ventures that are being negotiated by Government with some private investors and the exploration of diamonds since we believe that the community deserves a stake in it.

The community also believes that their standard of living should have improved from the time diamonds were discovered in the area.

Q. Did the community know that there were diamonds in the area?

A. Over the years no one knew but we discovered them around 2005/6

Q. But your area still remains one of the least developed areas in the country. How do you expect the area to benefit?

A. Firstly, we would expect Government and private investors to look at the situation of boreholes, roads, clinics and the general infrastructure in the area.

We want companies that are coming into the area to source their manpower from the community.

The community is also looking at getting a substantial stake in the mining ventures.

Q. Some companies have already set up shop. How far have they gone in assisting the community?

A. We are still negotiating with the Minister of Mines and Mining Development (Obert Mpofu) and the companies that have invested in our area. We are still negotiating to see how we can fit in as one family - the Government, the investors and the community.

Q. How did the community relate to the illegal diamond activities that occurred before Government secured the area?

A. When the illegal activities started in Chiadzwa the community was gripped with fear as most of the so-called gwejas (diamond panners) used to move around villages stealing goats and chicken. They used to stay in the mountains, cutting down trees, putting up fires everywhere and this turned out to be bad for the community. Our women were even afraid to go and fetch firewood in the bush because of the gwejas that were all over the area.

Q. What effort did you make as a community to deal with the illegal activities?

A. That is why we formed the development committee, the one that I chair. We had youths trying to screen strangers, trying to establish where they were coming from.

In fact, it is the community that asked for the army and police to move in after failing to contain the illegal activities.

Q. Are you happy that Government moved into the area?

A. We were happy that Government sent in security forces to stop the illegal activities and the eventual arrival of private investors with their own security.

It is now the right time for Government to scale down the presence of security forces from the area.

Q. Is there truth in reports that people were killing each other for diamonds?

A. We have had reports that the illegal panners were killing each other, especially when they went into the fields and they try to share but disagree and fought. Some got injured and some got killed.

Q. Are there mass graves in the diamond fields or did you ever come across unidentified bodies found on the fields?

A. There could have been some bodies in the mountains where the panners stayed because they used to kill each or just buried each other there.

When we heard of any of these deaths we notified the police.

Q. You are one of the people who volunteered evidence to the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme review team of alleged abuse at the fields, what exactly happened?

A. I just told the KPCS that there were some diamond panners all over the area but we had pleaded with Government to make sure that the people are moved out of the area.

The review team saw the panners and I don’t know what they discussed with them because I was not part of the exercise.

I only helped by driving them (KPCS review team) into the area but did not give any interview or volunteer evidence to them.

Q. But you recently wrote a letter to Government apologising for not following protocol, what had happened?

A. Actually, when the companies and other people moved in, we discussed this and we responded with emotions because that was not what we expected as a community. In trying to make sure that the community benefited we tended to become emotional. At the same time we were being denied access to the authorities.

You try to make an appointment and they tell you that they are too busy and this is where the frustrations were coming from.

Q. Now, how do you describe your relationship with Government?

A. As you are aware that the Mines Minister invited me to be part of the delegation (ministerial delegation that visited Chiadzwa recently) and we discussed with the people on the ground how they would want to assist in developing the area. We were all there with all Government agents to map a way forward.

Q. From your discussions with Government, what do you think the future holds for the people of Chiadzwa?

A. Government has made an undertaking to give a stake to the community and we are anxiously waiting for this to be fulfilled. We are waiting for Government to deliver.

Q. On a rather personal note, you are facing charges of illegal possession of diamonds. What is your response to that?

A. Unfortunately, it’s a matter before the courts and I cannot comment on that.

Q. Are you a diamond dealer?

A. No! I am not.

Q. So what do you do? What business are you into?

A. I am a curator, with a number of art galleries within and outside the country.

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