Arda Transau under renewed siege

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ARDA TRANSAU – Where the indigenous Musasa and Munondo trees were dominant, now lie deep gullies and slime dams.

What used to be a land full of agricultural potential, has only been left a devastated field, with the countryside now a torn forest.

Suffocated by economic bondage, hard-pressed Zimbabweans have turned into illegal panners and are tearing up the ARDA Transau farm in Odzi in hunt of gold, leaving behind a track of demolition.

ARDA Transau lies about 40km west of Mutare city, where families from
Chiadzwa were relocated to pave way for diamond mining in Chiadzwa in 2009.

The villagers at ARDA Transau who have been neglected for so many
years and tens of unemployed Zimbabweans, many of them youths, have turned to illegal gold panning near St Wellington Primary School in a bid to endure the country’s worsening economy.

Displaced from their ancestral and diamond-rich Chiadzwa area and
stimulated by Zimbabwe’s catastrophic economy, the villagers have
ventured into illegal gold mining, leaving shadows of environmental
ruin that is alarming.

A visit by Zim Morning Post recently revealed that despite
regular raids by security details – among them members of the police
and army – the frantic villagers have vowed “to die for survival”.

“We are dead already; dead of hunger. The continuous neglect and the
unfulfilled promises by the government and the ZCDC, have put us in
this situation. We cannot be defeated twice. We will die panning for
gold,”
said a youthful illegal panner in an interview.

The families were promised relocation fees and disturbance
allowances, among other welfare allowances, but up to now they claim not to have received anything.

Causemore Musaamba from Arda Transau Development Trust (ATRDT), said:

“Villagers were relocated to make way for the diamond mines have been dumped. They are now wallowing in poverty and hunger. We have not even heard a word from ZCDC concerning our fate. We have
not heard from them since they took over some years ago.”

School children and women have also joined the digging, while the open deep pits have paused a great danger to children and animals.

Cosmas Sunguro, the president of Zimbabwe Diamond Allied Workers’ Union (ZIDAWU), said there was need to protect the environment from the wanton destruction.

“The consequences of illegal mining can result in catastrophic impacts
as witnessed here. Monitoring activities have to be increased in these
hotspots,”
Sunguro said.

“The issue of formalising artisanal mining remains a topical one. A
winning formula still has to be found as continued criminalisation of
artisanal mining is not fair, considering that of late they have been
registering a rise in gold sales at Fidelity Printers,”
he said.

Sunguro added that illegal miners needed to be informed about the
repercussions of illegal mining and destruction of the
environment.

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Manicaland regional manager, Kingstone Chitotombe, said environmental destruction by the illegal miners has been a cause for concern.

“We have been reporting these cases to the police, but the illegal
miners have been very adamant. There has been a cat and mouse
relationship between police and the illegal miners,”
he said.

“When they are chased away by the police today, by the next day they will be back again destroying the environment.  There have been continuous destruction of the environment and the rivers are being polluted and silting,” Chitotombe said.

“We have engaged them (illegal miners) on numerous occasions, giving
them awareness of how their illegal mining impacts on the environment
but nothing has changed. We are now calling for a collective action to
arrest the rampant cases of environmental degradation perpetrated by
the illegal panners,”
he said.

With more illegal miners likely to exploit the area, as the economy
continues to slump, there are fears of irreversible damage to land,
and the risk of losing natural resources.

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