Zimbabwe to escape censure over abuses in diamond mines

farai_maguwuKey witness threatened as Mugabe regime mounts lobbying campaign

Zimbabwe looks set to escape any punishment over its trade in blood diamonds after a ruthless lobbying campaign by the Mugabe regime that has included threats and intimidation of a key witness at an international summit in neighbouring Namibia. (pictured: Farai Maguwu threaten

The member states of the Kimberley Process (KP) – the system set up to regulate the diamond trade – had been expected to use this week’s meeting to impose an export ban on Zimbabwe after clear evidence of gross human rights abuses at its diamond fields.

However, campaigners now fear that Zimbabwe will be let off in a move that could permanently damage the credibility of what was a groundbreaking effort to break the link between gems and violent conflict in Africa.

The tactics employed by Harare have included attempts to intimidate Farai Maguwu, a campaigner from the mining district in eastern Zimbabwe, who travelled to the Windhoek summit to give evidence. Mr Maguwu, who runs the Centre for Research and Development in Mutare, said he has been followed since leaving the country and threatened by senior officials.

“My presence here didn’t go down too well with them and they’ve had me followed,” he told The Independent by telephone from the summit. “Even now when I’m speaking they are pushing closer to try and hear what I’m saying.”

Mr Maguwu’s organisation has been compiling evidence of wrongdoing in the Marange district, an area that has been steadily taken over by the military since major alluvial diamond deposits were found there three years ago. The diamond fields were seized from a British company, African Consolidated Resources, but it was the slaughter by the army of hundreds of itinerant miners that drew worldwide condemnation last year.

“There are strong people making money out of diamonds and they want to silence me,” said Mr Maguwu. The researcher was summoned to a meeting with Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Namibia on Monday where he says he faced hysterical accusations.

“He was screaming at me and calling me names, saying I was trying to please white people, saying I don’t love my country… He’s paid by the people who are looting our country. No one’s paying me to be here,” said Mr Maguwu.

The Kimberley safeguards agreed in 2003 helped to restore consumer confidence in precious gems. But earlier this year one of the architects of the KP, Ian Smillie, quit the scheme saying it was “in danger of becoming irrelevant” and “letting all manner of crooks off the hook”.

Kimberley members agreed to send a mission to Zimbabwe last year after reports of abuses in the Marange fields. The delegation found evidence of a string of gross violations, giving hope to campaigners that the watchdog would act. “What is going on in Zimbabwe is against the spirit and the law of the Kimberley Process,” said Annie Dunnebacke from Global Witness, one of the groups that takes part in the KP. “Member governments must agree to suspend Zimbabwe from importing and exporting rough diamonds.”

The summit ends tomorrow. Last night Zimbabwe was referred to an oversight committee, the last step before any action would be taken. “It’s been a small victory as at least there will now be a discussion,” a source close to the talks said. “But the likelihood remains that no action will be taken.”

Mr Maguwu said: “If they [the KP] can’t act on the findings of their own mission then they really are no good for anything.”

The Independent (UK)

Post published in: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *