Mnangagwa admits army involvement in diamond trade

Zimbabwe’s Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has confirmed fears of ongoing military involvement in the country’s diamond industry, which human rights campaigners have for years linked to abuses in the Chiadzwa diamonds fields.

Emmerson Mnangagwa
Emmerson Mnangagwa

Mnangagwa reportedly told an audience at Midlands State University in Gweru that army deals were struck with diamond companies from China, Russia and other nations as part of efforts to counter Western targeted sanctions. He said the trade deals “to a large extent, stabilises industry and eliminates chances of internal economic sabotage.”

Mnangagwa, widely believed to be the chosen ZANU PF successor when Robert Mugabe dies, has always denied succession claims. But according to analyst Clifford Mashiri, his admitted involvement in the diamond industry puts him in a strong position to ensure his place in the power hierarchy. Mashiri said the profits from the militarised diamond trade would ensure a ZANU PF victory, with Mnangagwa holding the reins of power.

Mashiri meanwhile said there is little surprise that China and Russia have been linked to the Zimbabwean army, saying it justifies concerns already raised about their dealings in the local diamond industry. Russia is believed to be forging ahead with mining activities in Chimanimani, after forming a joint venture company with the Development Trust of Zimbabwe, another ZANU PF stronghold.

In 2010 it emerged that Robert Mugabe’s loyal security forces and the equally notorious Chinese People’s Liberation Army, had entered into a diamonds-for-arms deal, with millions of dollars worth of industrial diamonds being mined and airlifted to China. The stones, which are not pure enough for commercial sale, are believed to be flown directly out of Chiadzwa where an airstrip was built in 2009. In return Zimbabwe’s military is said to be given weapons to keep propping up Mugabe’s regime.

The deal between Zimbabwe and China was reportedly set up by General Constantine Chiwenga, A senior intelligence chief who was quoted by the UK Daily Mail after an undercover investigation, said that weapons supplied by the Chinese were being handed out to the military in preparation for a brutal new crackdown against Mugabe’s opponents. As well as paying a share of the diamond profits to Mugabe’s regime, he confirmed that China has agreed to supply military hardware to Zimbabwe. The official said: “Beijing supplies weapons to us, and we allow them to mine diamonds.”

The military involvement in Chiadzwa has for years been raised as a major area of concern, so much so that the demilitarisation of the diamond fields was listed as a key requirement before the country was allowed to resume international trade.

This was stipulated by the trade watchdog grouping, the Kimberley Process (KP), who have, nonetheless, given Zimbabwe the green light to resume sales.

This is despite ongoing concerns about human rights abuses and rampant smuggling.

Analyst Mashiri meanwhile told SW Radio Africa that the 2008 ‘clean-up’ operation at the Chiadzwa diamond mines must be used as an example of what happens when the military is involved. That operation, codenamed Operation Hakudzokwi (no return), resulted in the deaths of hundreds of diamond panners and secured the military grip on the area. No investigation has ever been launched into the deaths there, or reports that the military’s control led to forced labour and abuse.

“You can seen why the military involvement is such a disturbing issue because their operations are so brutal,” Mashiri said. SW Radio Africa

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