Tsvangirai calls for transparent probe into diamond field abuses

tsvangirai_morganPrime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (Pictured) on Thursday called for a transparent investigation into the widespread abuses and deaths at the Chiadzwa diamond fields, just two weeks after yet another person died at the hands of soldiers there.

The Prime Minister was speaking at a mining conference in Harare and said that innocent people at the diamond fields had been victimised for their proximity to enormous natural wealth.

We must as a government investigate in an open and transparent manner any human rights abuses that took place so that the innocent victims receive justice and to ensure that the protection of our people is paramount in this new Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai told foreign investors attending the conference.

Referring to the widely reported use of excessive force by the police and army tasked with controlling the diamond fields, Tsvangirai said it is a sad fact that local communities have been prevented from enjoying the fruits of our natural resources and particularly in the east of the country they have been persecuted for their proximity to enormous natural wealth. The Prime Minister added that the tragedy that took place in Chiadzwa and other places cannot be repeated.

His comments come as the military grip on the diamond fields has tightened, with this new death at the hands of the army reported last week. According to the Mutare based Centre for Research and Development, soldiers based in Chiadzwa kidnapped, tortured and murdered an apparent illegal diamond panner over a week ago. Moreblessing Tirivangani died on Sunday 6th September after a vicious beating by soldiers the previous night. The Centre for Research and Development reported that police, who transported Tirivanganis body to the Mutare General Hospital Mortuary, were ordered to report that he had tried to disarm a soldier.

This is highly untrue given that soldiers always move around in pairs or more. Also given the general fear among the people with regard to soldiers, it is very unthinkable that a civilian can try to disarm a soldier in a highly militarised zone like Chiadzwa, the Centre reported.

The continued militirisation of the diamond fields has been in direct contravention of recommendations made earlier this year by a delegation from the Kimberley Process (KP), the international body tasked with stopping the trade in blood diamonds. The group was shamed into sending a review mission after receiving widespread accounts by human rights groups of violence, torture, child labour and murder at the diamond fields last year. Survivors of the military violence reported mass deaths at the hands of soldiers in 2008, after the military was ordered to clean up the area.

The KP delegation found evidence of serious non-compliance with minimum diamond trade standards, as well as dramatic human rights abuses. The testimony of some victims was reportedly so sad that the Liberian team leader left one of the meetings in tears. The teams interim report, which was leaked to the media and is yet to be officially published, recommended Zimbabwes suspension from the regulatory body. But the suspension recommendation was quickly denounced by the Kimberley Process Chair, Bernhard Esau, who told reporters in Harare that suspension would never happen. Esau, who has come under increasing pressure from human rights groups and critics of the Kimberley Process, has since denied that he ever made the statement.

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