But illegal panners caught by the police have suffered brutal abuse at the hands of law enforcement agents. Innocent people – even wayfarers – have also been caught in this vicious police dragnet, which has all the characteristics of the villainous 2008 Operation Hakudzokwi, when the government brutally evicted illegal panners from the diamonds fields to make way for formal mining.
As villagers narrated their ordeals at the hands of law enforcement agents during the recent mining indaba here, the president of the Chiefs Council, Chief Fortune Charumbira, expressed shock. As did the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Water, Anastancia Ndhlovu.
The abuses are taking place far from the prying eyes of human rights watchers as international diamond markets have warmed up to Marange diamonds.
Mrs Jena from Hotsprings, a stone’s throw from the rich diamond fields told the conference how more than 40 innocent people from the Hotsprings area were seized by heavily armed anti-riot police on suspicion of being illegal diamond miners and buyers.
“These were innocent people, some of whom were rounded up while watching a FIFA World Cup match last Saturday at around 6:30pm. They were rounded up by the police and taken to to the notorious Diamond Base in the diamond fields. They were beaten and tortured the whole night before being released,” she said.
The Diamond Base, created during Operation Hakudzokwi in 2008, is the epicentre of human rights abuses in Marange.
“My son was among those taken and I had to follow to the base at around 9pm. What I saw there was heartrending. Water was being poured over the suspects and they were forced to roll over the dirty ground while the police took turns to beat them. I tried to plead with the police to release my son but they would not listen to me. Even the colonial regime could not treat us this bad. Those who were beaten received treatment at Nyanyadzi Clinic,” said Mrs Jena, choking back tears.
The victims are instituting legal action against the police.
Another villager told the gathering how the diamond companies were releasing toxic materials into Odzi, Singwizi and Save Rivers, rendering the water unsuitable for any use.
“Look at this dirty water,” he said showing a bottle of murky water, “this is the water we are now getting from our rivers since the start of mining in Marange. It causes skin rashes and our livestock are dying after drinking the water. We used to drink this water without any problems and people used to depend on these rivers for fish – but the fish are long gone,” he said.
Charumbira promised to take up the issues raised with responsible authorities.
“We need to be honest with each other. Tell me, if there are no sanctions today, will these people benefit from the diamond revenue?” asked the Chief. “Let’s have the diamonds benefit the country and the communities in Marange. This is not election time so we must tell each other the truth,” he added.
Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Water chairperson, Ndhlovu said the police were there to protect the people not the harass them.
“I will check with the relevant authorities to see what really happened, but the police are here to protect us….and water is a very serious and we need to take the issues seriously,” she said. Ndhlovu exhorted people to carry their identity cards when travelling to Marange as it was a protected area.Post published in: News