Arda Transau relocation houses in deplorable state

KENNETH MATIMAIRE

OVER 100 houses built for Marange villagers who were relocated to Arda Transau resettlement area are lying in ruin after former diamond miners abandoned the project in 2016 without allocating them to intended beneficiaries.

There are 71 four-roomed houses, while 35 houses are incomplete. The former miners failed to allocate the houses before operations were forcibly shut by the government.

A visit to Arda Transau by Zimbabwe Independent unearthed a classic case of diamonds gone to waste. The abandoned houses have become an eyesore, as they are dilapidated, four years after construction.

Traditional kitchen huts and four-roomed houses’ roofs were blown away by hailstorms. Window glasses are broken, walls are cracked with threats of collapsing if the incessant rains continue.

“The houses are now a death trap. They are no longer fit for occupation. There is urgent need for maintenance as they have been lying idle for the past four years,” Arda Transau Relocation Development Trust (ATRDT) secretary Tawanda Mufute said.

Mufute is one of the villagers relocated from Marange in 2010 to pave way for diamond extraction.

He said several unsuccessful engagements were made by ATRDT since July 2016 to have the houses allocated to youthful couples who were moved from Marange.

Mufute accused companies contracted to build the houses of poor workmanship since the structures are collapsing.

Former Mines and Mining Development minister Walter Chidhakwa once took the blame and promised to crack the whip on the errant contractors. He later left office without acting. Incumbent Mines minister Winston Chitando did not respond to questions by the time of going to print.

Manicaland Provincial Administrator Edgar Seenza said he was not well-versed with the issue.

Mutare district development coordinator Lazarus Bore said, “The problem commenced when the (former Chiadzwa) companies closed. There was no proper handover-takeover done with the Ministry of Local Government. The Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) was instructed to assume responsibility but it developed cold feet in resettling villagers,” Bore said.

ZCDC said it could only legally takeover houses that were built by companies merged to form the consolidated firm.
Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Company, Kusena Diamonds and Gye Nyame from Marange were merged to form ZCDC, while Anjin Investments, Jinan Mining and Mbada Diamonds resisted the “hostile takeover”.

ATRDT said the houses have been turned into havens for illegal gold panners, drifters and criminals, putting the community at risk.

This has been worsened by the rainy season that has sparked demand for accommodation in and around the gold rich belt of Odzi — near Arda.

“Most of the houses are occupied by people whom we don’t know. Our community is at risk because these houses are attracting all sorts of people including criminals. There has been a spike in the number of house robberies,” Mufute said.

About 53 young families that were not awarded houses in Arda have taken the matter into their own hands to counter external invasions.

“I had to move into this (one of the unallocated) house because I cannot watch as strangers continue to grab houses that were meant for us,” Kwikwidzai Munjoma said.

Munjoma, who is married, said it was difficult to live under the same roof with parents and married siblings.

Information gathered by the Independent indicate that a total of 1 200 households were relocated and given a paltry US$1 000 each as compensation. Arda Transau, which measures 12 000 hectares, has the capacity to accommodate an additional 1 800 families out of the 4 300 households still waiting for relocation in Marange.

Anjin relocated 466 families, while its sister company, Jinan Mining moved 129.

Mbada Diamonds resettled 102 families while Marange Resources and DMC moved 44 and 40 households, respectively.

Kusena relocated two families, while ZCDC, which took over the relocation exercise, only managed to resettle 23 households.

Bore said government would convene a meeting with ZCDC and Anjin, to map the way forward. Anjin deputy general manager Shingi Manyeruke said they were waiting government appraisal.