Zim cleared to sell Marange diamonds despite ongoing abuses

The global diamonds watchdog, the Kimberley Process, has cleared Zimbabwe to sell alluvial diamonds from the controversial Marange fields, despite documented evidence that top military and political chefs are involved in massive looting and that human rights abuses continue.

Clearance to sell Marange diamonds from two sites was given Tuesday after a meeting of the KP members, who are the World Diamond Council and representatives from Zimbabwe, the European Union, the United States and South Africa.

It was agreed the deal made "will remain under constant review" and civil society representatives will have access to “independently verify mining activity”, a statement from the World Council said.

But this has angered civic groups and some observers who maintain that no diamonds from Marange should be sold until the Zimbabwe government complies with the KP regulations they agreed to, and until abuses are dealt with.

The new deal ignores evidence revealed by MDC-T legislator Eddie Cross in a presentation to parliament last month, showing millions of dollars have been looted from the Marange profits. Cross alleged that top military, police and ZANU PF officials were involved and brought forward a parliamentary motion to nationalize the diamonds. He was later threatened by intelligence agents on his way home.

Further abuses were also revealed by the South African television programme Carte Blanche on Sunday, who spoke to victims in Marange. One miner said security guards from private firms hired by Mbada Investments, who have concessions in Marange, are using dogs to attack them. He said guards held him down while a dog bit his mouth.

Another victim said he had witnessed many attacks by guards using dogs, including a brutal incident where a dog bit off a woman’s breast. The stories told to Carte blanche confirmed the abuses that MP Eddie Cross talked about in parliament. A separate investigation by the BBC had earlier shown that torture camps also exist in the Marange area.

Mike Davis from the rights group Global Witness told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday the new deal was a “very poor decision” by the KP, and that it may reduce their influence and level of respect in the global diamond market. He said the decision was “deeply disappointing” as Global Witness had invested many years in getting the KP established.

“The KP has effectively surrendered its influence over Zimbabwe by saying that from now on the main mines can export diamonds without any checks or balances or further restrictions,” Davis said.

He explained that the KP was supposed to authorize specific exports “as and when” Zimbabwe showed progress in reforming the situation in Marange, but that link between progress and exports is now gone. “So there is really no incentive now for the Zimbabwean government to comply with its commitments,” Davis added.

In 2008 the government sent troops to the Marange area to remove all small scale miners and villagers who had been operating there, and according to Human Rights Watch at least 200 were killed and many others assaulted or abused.

KP halted sales from Zimbabwe and a deadlock has existed on the issue, with only China and India favouring the authorization of Zim diamonds for sale. But a brisk trade in illegal diamonds has flourished in Mozambique, profiting military and government chefs who bypassed national coffers.

The deal authorized Tuesday requires Zimbabwe to update KP monitoring staff consistently as to the identity of mine investors and the progress on eliminating illegal mining and traffickers, a statement from the Council said.

Asked why the continued abuses have been ignored Davis said: “This reflects a lack of sufficient commitment on the part of the governments which make up the KP and also on the part of the global diamond industry too.”

Ironically, the meeting Tuesday was held in the Congolese capital Kinshasa, a place renowned for fuelling African conflicts using “blood diamonds”. The DRC is currently the chair of the Kimberley Process.

Davis said it was clear what commitments the Zimbabwean government had made to remedy the situation, and it was equally clear that they have not met most of them.

Unfortunately it is ordinary Zimbabweans who will continue to be the victims and it will be the ruling party chefs, military and unscrupulous business people who will go on stealing the country’s resources. – SW Radio Africa

Post published in: News

Leave a Reply

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