Child labour at Marange diamond fields

chihuri_chiwengwaHARARE Zimbabwe is using child labourers to mine precious minerals including at the army-controlled Marange or Chiadzwa diamond fields in the east of the country, according to a new US report shown to The Zimbabwean on Sunday last week. (Pictured: Police Chief Augustine Chihuri and Defence Forces boss Constantine Chiwenga - Security forces have

The report by the US Department of Labour said Zimbabwe was among eight African countries guilty of using under-age children as labour in the mining, agriculture, tourism and construction industries in violation of international regulations. It said young children were being used, sometimes for no pay, in illegal mining activities. Children engage in the mining of diamonds, gold, chrome, and tin, as well as illegal gold panning with their families, said the report.

The report which also cited Angola, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cte dIvoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as other violators of international regulations barring child labour came as the Zimbabwe National Army had assumed control of the controversial Chiadzwa diamond fields in Manicaland. Senior army officers are said to be engaged in the illegal mining of diamonds in the area. Witnesses say the soldiers regularly conscript both children and adults as forced

labour to mine diamonds illegally in the controversial Marange diamond fields.

Many of those forced to work on the diamonds fields have reported being beaten up and tortured by the soldiers. The US report also noted that a surge in incidents of child trafficking during the past few years, with more than 3 000 children rescued from traffickers last year alone. A combination of economic hardships, decimation of families due to HIV and AIDS, and a collapse of social services has seen thousands of Zimbabwean children cross the countrys borders in search of food and employment opportunities.

The US report said the Zimbabwean government, with assistance from Save The Children- Norway, is providing assistance to children at an International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Child Care Centre in Beitbridge along the South African border. This centre served 2 087 children in 2008. Between June and December 2008, 766 children were assisted at the new IOM centre for unaccompanied children and child trafficking victims in Plumtree on Zimbabwes border with Botswana, the report said.

Also on the increase is the number of under-age Zimbabwean girls, some as young as 12, engaging in prostitution across the countrys borders. Most of the prostitution activity takes place in South Africa and Mozambique, according to the report.

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