ZBDC welcomes report that Parliament will probe rights abuses in Chiadzwa

diamondThe Zimbabwe Blood Diamonds Campaign (ZBDC) welcomes as long overdue the news that Parliament will probe rights abuses and illegal activities taking place at the Chiadzwa diamond fields.

A NewZimbabwe report yesterday quoted Mines and Energy parliamentary portfolio committee chairman Edward ChindoriChininga as saying that his committee went to Chiadzwa to investigate allegations that have previously been raised by human rights organizations and the Kimberly Process Certification Schemes interim report that was completed last month.

Whilst the ZBDC welcomes this move, it however urges the committee to make a thorough investigation that should leave no stone unturned in exposing the abuses and illegal dealings by mainly government officials, who perpetrated them and to also come up with recommendations regarding issues of prosecution, restitution and compensation for victims. The ZBDC also hopes that this investigation will not be a sanitizing exercise to pre-empt Zimbabwes suspension when the final report of the KP is released.

On another note, the ZBDC expresses its deep regret concerning the recent visit to Zimbabwe by a 4 member KP delegation. The unannounced KP August visit totally eclipsed earlier credible work done by an internally assembled KP team. The July KPCS mission noted that there was massive illegal trade in Chiadzwa diamonds, gross human rights violations by the military and lack of security around the diamond fields. The government of Zimbabwe immediately issued a press statement through its provincial Joint Operations Command (Heads of army, Police and CIO), swearing that the army will not pull out of the diamond fields. They argued that it was in the best interest of the country for the army to remain in Chiadzwa.

A member of the Zimbabwe Blood Diamond Campaign (ZBDC), the Center for Research and Development (CRD) issued several alerts pointing to the fact the diamond panning and smuggling escalated after the KP visit in July. On the 19th of august the CRD issued another alert highlighting that the military was carrying out a clean up operation in the Chiadzwa diamond Fields ahead of as yet unknown senior government official. It latter emerged that the clean up operation was conducted in anticipation of the 4 man KP visit, led by the current hold of the rotating chair, Bernard Esau, the Mines Minister of Namibia.

The ZBDC wishes to make it categorically clear that diamonds being mined in Marange are not being accounted for in the interest of the public. Since the July KPCS visit the Kwekwe based 5th brigade has escalated panning and fuelled the illegal trade in diamonds by allowing thousands of panners back into the diamond fields to work in syndicates with the soldiers. Panning temporarily stopped on the 18th of august to allow the KP delegation to tour the diamond fields. It was business as usual on Monday 24 August as panners flocked back into the diamond fields.
It is against this background that the ZBDC is of the opinion that Zimbabwe diamonds should be temporarily banned from the international market, according to the KPCS July report, until such a time when the government has put in place adequate security measures to ensure transparency and accountability. The ZBDC also notes with concern the continued human rights violations by soldiers against civilians caught within the diamond fields operating independently or outside syndicates. These abuses continue despite the KPCS urgent instruction to stop the abuses in July. Allowing Zimbabwe to continue trading in diamonds will only result in the people of Zimbabwe being prejudiced of national wealth estimated in billions of dollars in addition to unnecessary loss of lives.

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