The controversial Marange diamonds in Zimbabwe may not perfectly into the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme’s definition of blood diamonds – but blood diamonds they certainly are. Details of brutality by the army and police continue to surface.
Much blood has been spilt as the battle between mining companies and illegal panners continues unabated. And the diamonds are dripping with blood all the way to various international markets.
The companies, which all have a government component, are brutal in dealing with illegal miners, torturing them and setting dogs on them. Heavily armed police and army officers have pitched tents in the diamond fields for the past five years and, with the help of security guards employed by the mining firms, they have been involved in various human rights abuses.
Even though numerous NGOs have tabled various reports documenting these abuses, the Kimberley Process has been conspicuous by its silence. President Robert Mugabe has been accused of using the diamond revenue to entrench his dictatorship. Last year most of the revenue was deposited into his party’s coffers to fund its election campaign.
Following the gazetting of Marange as a protected area by the government in 2009 under the Protected Places and Areas Act, little information from the diamond fields has been released to the outside world.
Members of Parliament were denied entry on numerous occasions. When finally they were granted access, following reports that mining companies were discharging toxic waste into rivers, the tour was heavily guided and MPs were denied contact with the affected villagers. After the tour the parliamentary portfolio committee on mines compiled a hard-hitting report, after which committee chairman Edward Chindori Chininga died in a mysterious car accident.
And more shocking details of human rights abuses are emerging from Marange following the release of a detailed research by the Centre for Research and Development. Even with the massive presence of heavily-armed police and soldiers, illegal miners are still sneaking into the fields – but with serious repercussions if they are caught. Horrific stories and images of torture continue to surface as desperate Zimbabweans continue to sneak into the area to pan for diamonds illegally. Members of the Marange community have been subject to all forms of harassment. In some cases passes are demanded at police checkpoints, while restrictions on public transport and business operations cripple the area.
Local communities, who had hoped to benefit from the rich resources in their area, continue to live in poverty. Mining activities pollute their sources of water and degrade their agricultural land. Their livestock continue to die from drinking contaminated water from the Odzi and Save Rivers as a result of hazardous substances and sludge disposed by the mining firms.
The incidents of brutality captured in the CRD report are appalling. Last July Joseph Murisa (30) from Gweru and Malvin Malema (23), together with a syndicate of five panners were caught panning in Marange Resources’ concession at around 2.00am. They tried to escape but were arrested by security guards who set dogs on them. The two were taken to the guard room where Murisa was made to frog jump the whole night. Malema lost a lot of blood from dog bite wounds on his hands. The two were later freed with serious wounds inflicted by the dogs.
In another incident Collins Kusina from Waterfalls in Harare was caught by guards from Anjin carrying a sack of diamond ore. He was arrested and taken to Anjin Base where he was severely assaulted throughout the night. He was released the following morning and dumped near Hot Springs. Leonard Makazi from Gaza in Chipinge was severely assaulted by Anjin guards after he was caught panning for diamonds at Jese area. He sustained a serious eye injury.
Gainmore Gamunorwa of Arda Transau near Mutare entered Mbada Diamonds area at around 12.00 pm and was shot in the leg by an enraged guard. He was taken to Mutare Provincial Hospital where CRD caught up with him. The NGO reports that many panners who were shot in Marange in recent years are living with bullets in their bodies because they cannot afford medical treatment.
Forced to frog jump
Late last year about 40 armed soldiers and police officers on horseback pounced at Nenhohwe, Nyanyadzi and Hot Springs business centres near the diamond fields looking for illegal panners. Business ground to a halt as people ran for dear life. Villagers found without national identity cards were harassed and made to frog jump repeatedly before they were eventually released.
Late last year the CRD tracked Given Ngaruvhime (24) from Arda Transau who was shot at Marange Resources on 19 July 2013 around 3.00am after he was found with 12 other panners loading tailings into sacks with the hope of picking diamonds from this waste. Information that Marange Resources was using old machinery and not recovering 100 percent of diamonds from diamond concentrate has been attracting hundreds of panners to pan in their tailings.
Ngaruvhime was living with eight bullets in his arm because he could not raise money for an operation as he was unemployed and his parents had died a few years back. “Ngaruvhime had been having sleepless nights because of pain from these bullets imbedded in his arm for the past two months. He was successfully operated on in September 2013 with the financial support from CSU,” reads part of the hard-hitting CRD report.
But even with all this evidence, the Kimberley Process has cleared the diamonds for sale on international markets and the European Union recently removed Zimbabwean diamonds from the blacklist of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre in Belgium.Post published in: News