Zim schools say mines took gems but failed to build promised classrooms
Pupils in Arda Transau, in the diamond-rich Marange area, have complained that mining companies that used to operate in the area failed to build classrooms as part of corporate social responsibility pledges.
Charasika Primary School, which has 1,500 pupils, has just 15 classrooms - some of them built by the community. Only three were built by Anjin, a Chinese mining company that was kicked out by former president Robert Mugabe's government in 2016.
The community has built two additional classrooms, but the remaining 10 are makeshift structures.
Tempers are running high over what the community feels is exploitation by the mining companies which, they claim, use the area's vast mineral resources without giving back to communities.
The Marange minefields are estimated to hold up to 20% of the world's diamond deposits.
Seven mining companies operating in the area, including Anjin and Mbada Diamonds, were supposed to build a clinic and schools at Arda Transau.
Only Anjin honoured its pledge, while Mbada rehabilitated one primary school. The Mugabe government booted all seven miners out of the area.
Donald Masvaure, chair of the Arda Transau Relocation Development Trust, said the situation was bad.
"To imagine that our children are using such inhumane learning facilities, for people [in] one of the richest diamond fields in Zimbabwe, seems like a big joke; 1,500 pupils are coming to learn at a school with three classroom blocks only.
"We blame the government for failing to ensure that both the former miners and the current miner, ZCDC [Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company], commit to issues to do with our welfare and that of our children," he said.
Blessing Mufute, a villager in the area, said the community felt it had to take matters into its own hands. "So far we have built two additional classrooms as responsible parents," he said.
ZCDC, which has taken over diamond mining activities in the area, said it was concerned at the plight of the community and was willing to assist.
Company CEO Moris Mpofu said ZCDC was conducting a needs assessment on how best to address the infrastructure issues.
"That will also include education, so that we assist with the rehabilitation and upgrading of infrastructure so that it meets the required standards," Mpofu said. "So it is something that is a work in progress."
But Masvaure said ZCDC had yet to assist in a meaningful way. He cited a water shortage the community had experienced since December last year.
"ZCDC has not done anything for us. They have abandoned us the same way the former miners did. They refuse to engage us as the community and choose to cherry-pick the individuals to talk to," said Masvaure.
It is understood the community plans to approach the minister of provincial affairs, Ellen Gwaradzimba.