- Women and girls living in impoverished families in the midst of diamond diggers battle sexual exploitation daily.
- Observers say Marange is no longer a safe place for the girl child and women in general.
- A culture of silence and impunity means that few cases are investigated or prosecuted.
MARANGE diamond fields – stretching over 80 000 hectares – with diamond deposits estimated in billions of dollars has been a treacherous place to live in since the discovery of the precious stones more than a decade ago.
Local women have described Chiadzwa as worse than a prison.
The diamond-rich Chiadzwa was classified as a protected area since 2008 by the Protected Places and Areas Act, resulting in locals being stripped of their liberties.
Consequently, there has been a heavy deployment of State and private security personnel in the area.
An influx of thousands of illegal artisanal diamond diggers and hundreds of domineering State and private security as well as thousands of male mine workers have reportedly made Chiadzwa hell for local females.
“This is no place for women anymore… our daughters are being raped by everyone; from illegal miners to security personnel or they are lured and abused by workers or buyers using money,” Thandiwe Saungweme, the Marange Development Trust chief coordinator, told Zim Morning Post in sentiments that were shared by more than half a dozen other women in the area.
“Only old women like me may feel a little safer physically because we are not appealing for these sex pests but deeply disturbed by the social upheaval,” Saungweme continued.
“A jail is better because at least it would be punishment for a wrong you would have done and there are time frames for your release.”
Nancy Gamunorwa, another local woman and member of the Amalgamated Community Development Trust, said dozens of marriages have been wrecked after married women were either raped or enticed into relationships by cash-rich diamond dealers.
Human rights defender and extractive industry activist Farai Maguwu also described the area as unsafe for women.
“Marange is no longer a safe place for the girl child and women in general,” he said.
“There are girls living in impoverished families in the midst of diamond diggers and dealers who take advantage of their vulnerability to sexually exploit them.”
“Another problem is members of the security sector having adulterous affairs with married women,” Maguwu said.
A culture of silence and impunity mean that few cases are investigated or prosecuted.
Conviction rates are low, because investigations rely too much on a victim coming forward to report the crime and to provide testimony and evidence.
The design of the mining activities in Chiadzwa, in which mining is happening within a communal area, is a challenge even for the veteran diamond miner who now heads the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company and came in with over 30 years experience from Botswana and South Africa – acting CEO Robert De Pretto.
He has previously also expressed dismay at the huge discrepancy between the area’s mineral wealth and the high levels of poverty of its inhabitants.
“They’re still an impoverished community. I’ve seen what diamonds can do in other countries. They still have no running water in their homes,” he said.
“There is no electricity in their houses – in this day and age! It’s really shocking. So, we really need to fix the basics…there is a lot of work to be done on getting the fundamentals in place, and I hope we can change it,” De Pretto said.