Chiadzwa diamonds in Guyana

diamondsHARARE Diamonds from Zimbabwes Chiadzwa field are being smuggled as far as Sierra Leone and Guyana as an international pressure group last week blasted the industry watchdog of manufacturing polite fiction to cover up for shortcomings by Zimbabwean authorities.

Partnership Africa Canada, an Ottawa-based group fighting for the eradication of blood diamonds around the world, said Zimbabwe exhibited a wide variety of serious problems ranging from smuggling and illegal seizure of diamond leases to outright denial of easily verifiable murder and human rights abuse in its diamond fields.

In 2009, Zimbabwean industrial diamonds, easily identified by their size and colour, showed up as far afield as Guyana and Sierra Leone, said Partnership Africa Canada in a publication titled Other Facets released last week.

It accused the Kimberley Process (KP) of turning a blind eye to the illegal activities taking place in Zimbabwe and other diamond-producing or importing countries.

Greater range

If low-value diamonds like these travel that far and that easily in search of a laundry, it is clear than high value goods have even greater range and speed, the group observed.

The group said the KP in particular was not doing anything to stem a thriving illegal diamond market that has emerged in Mozambiques Manica town which is supplied with the precious mineral smuggled out of Zimbabwe by army and government officials.

Just five miles across the border from Marange in Mozambique a vibrant trade in smuggled diamonds flourishes for anyone to see. It has taken the Kimberley Process a full year of internal bickering and public embarrassment to reach the point where an exemplary decision may (or may not) be made, PAC said.

The military are now accused of press-ganging local people to mine for them in return for a pittance.

The crackdown saw widespread arrests, beatings and killings of anyone suspected of involvement in unsanctioned diamond mining or smuggling.

The KP and human rights groups have accused Mugabe of authorizing attacks on artisan miners by the army.

Human rights abuses

The KP review team that visited Zimbabwe in July recommended the country addressed security issues in Chiadzwa by demilitarising the diamond fields and also take steps to address allegations of human rights abuses by the security forces.

Pressure groups have accused the KP of not taking decisive action on the atrocities on Zimbabwes diamond fields.

Regardless of whether KP participants agree or not, Zimbabwe has been covering its diamonds with blood an example if one was needed of how quickly a polite fiction can descend into chaos and murder, said PAC.

In June the New York-based pressure group, Human Rights Watch cited accounts from more than 100 witnesses, miners, police officers, soldiers and children alleging human rights abuses by troops.

It said its researchers had gathered evidence of mass graves and accounts of an incident in which military helicopters fired on miners while armed soldiers on the ground chased villagers away.

Villages and towns deemed too close to the diamond fields were demolished and their residents forced to move away.

At the height of the mini-boom and before the military crackdown, the nearby city of Mutare was seen as a “wild west” town with cash-rich miners flaunting their wealth in new goods, cars and US dollars.

The diamonds would be smuggled out through the nearby Mozambique border where dealers from Lebanon, Belgium, Iraq, Mauritania and the Balkans were waiting to buy in cash.

Post published in: Economy

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