The Sunday Mail
Villagers living in the Sese area of Chivi, in Masvingo province, are living in a quandary.
Located some 55 kilometres south of Masvingo city along the Masvingo-Beitbridge highway, this semi-arid area falls under the drought-prone agricultural regions four and five.
The villagers, who are subsistence farmers, eke out their livelihoods out of the dry, sun-baked and unproductive sandy soils. As a way of combating food insecurity in the area, Government established small-scale irrigation schemes that are cushioning the villagers from the perennial droughts.
The recent discovery of diamonds in the area brought with it hope.
A cloud of uncertainty also hovers above the heads of the villagers, amid fears that they might be relocated to distant areas to pave way for the mining activities.
Diamond mining has since started.
As the massive diamond drilling rig will be pounding the earth, digging deeper into the bowels of the earth to extract the precious gems, the villagers will be, without doubt, be wondering what the future holds for them.
Interactions with the Chivi folks revealed that although the majority of the villagers are excited about the commencement of the mining activities, some are worried about the prospect of being relocated.
Questions are being raised as to whether the mining activities will bring any meaningful financial benefits to the community.
For Miss Harietta Zizhou, a shop owner at Sese shopping centre, the mining company has already exhibited “selfish traits”.
“As businesses, we are not benefiting from the mining activities. The company acquires almost everything from Masvingo city, shunning local businesses in the process. It provides food to its workers and the workers are housed in tents,” Miss Zizhou said.
Miss Zizhou maintained that the company should support local businesses by acquiring some of its goods locally and renting some of the houses for its workers.
Some locals, like Headman Mashamhanda (Mr Mujaho Mashamhanda), on whose jurisdiction the mining activities are being undertaken, has taken a wait-and-see approach.
“It is too early to judge the company. Some people resist change just for the sake of it. I always advice my subjects to be patient,” Headman Mashamhanda said.
Although Chivi district is drought-prone, communities have adopted such drought mitigating efforts as water harvesting, the introduction of nutrition gardens and adopting climate smart agricultural practices.
With the aid from Government, efforts have been made to rehabilitate and develop irrigation schemes as part of the climate change interventions.
Headman Tavagadza (Mr Gilbert Tavagadza) said the community must not look too much into the mining operations.
“We must, as a community, continue with the projects that we have been undertaking. Mining companies are primarily there to make profits,” Headman Tavagadza said.
Headman Tavagadza challenged those that were born in Sese but are now based elsewhere to help develop the area.
He singled out Alex Mashamhanda, a prominent Harare-based businessman and philanthropist, whom he described as Sese’s “financial asset”.
“I know that it is not proper to name a single person but Alex Mashamhanda deserves special mention. He single-handedly electrified this area and also constructed a dip tank. He is an asset and if we continue working with him, we will not bother to extend a begging bowel to the mining companies,” said Headman Tavagadza.
According to Headman Tavagadza, Mashamhanda, who was born and bred in this area, dug deeper into his pockets and drew electricity from Mafenga Business Centre, some 16 kilometres away.
Embarking on an aggressive and effective rural electrification drive, the Sese business centre, Darangombe High School, Jaka and St Simon primary schools were also electrified among others.
More than five villages, among them Dambudzo, Javangwe and Zharu also benefited from the electrification drive.
The once heavily silted Chamakanda and Tavagadza dams were de-silted and spillways were rehabilitated.
Before construction of the Chamakanda dip tank, locals used to take their cattle to a dip tank in Mandizvidza Village, some 25 kilometres away. In an effort to combat the effects of El Nino, the community is drawing water from the Tavagadza Dam to irrigate their nutritional gardens.
Ms Shylet Nhengu, a member of the Mashamhanda Nutritional Gardening Project, explained how the introduction of the project has helped improve the community’s livelihoods.
“This area receives little rainfall. So, what we have been doing is that we started nutritional gardens. We grow vegetables that we will then dry and store for use during the time when the dam dries up,” Ms Nhengu, a member of the nutritional gardening project, said.
More than 40 families are benefiting from the project.
An additional irrigation scheme is on the cards following the drilling of three boreholes in Mashamhanda village.
“Apart from the irrigation schemes, we also have cattle fattening projects. With or without the mine, we are going to improve our standards of living,” a exuberant Nhengu said.