Zanu PF, military want to grab diamond fields—Global Witness

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Global Witness, an international group opposed to the corrupt exploitation of natural resources, has accused Zanu PF and the military elite of seeking to seize the country’s diamond fields through State-sponsored violence and the legally questionable introduction of opaque joint-venture companies.
The accusations are contained in a damning report released yesterday entitled Return of the Blood Diamond.
Conflict of blood diamonds are germs that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognised governments.
They are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the United Nations Security Council. The Chiadzwa diamond deals have caused ructions in the inclusive government and the mining sector after the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe entered into questionable agreements with Mbada Diamonds and Canadile Miners (Pvt) Ltd that were given licences unprocedurally.
In the report, Elly Harrowell, a Global Witness campaigner, said the national army had visited appalling abuses on civilians in Marange’s diamond fields over the past three years.
“Nobody has been held to account for these crimes and now it turns out that the joint venture companies nominally brought in to improve conditions are directly linked to the Zanu PF and military elite,” Harrowell said.
“Thanks to the impunity and violence in Zimbabwe, blood diamonds are back on the international market.”
The Global Witness report described how the Minister of Mines, Obert Mpofu, a Zanu PF stalwart, had been allegedly at the forefront of efforts to block oversight of the joint venture companies, Canadile Miners and Mdaba Diamonds. The report alleged Mpofu imposed his allies as board members of companies awarded rights to mine in Chiadzwa and sidelined the state mining company, the Mineral marketing Corporation of Zimbawe.
“Mbada Diamonds is chaired by Robert Mhlanga, former Air Vice Marshal and erstwhile star witness at Morgan Tsvangirai’s treason trial,” Harrowell said in the report.
Harrowell said the investment deals had been done with scant regard for legal processes against the background of violence and intimidation, and are dangerously lacking in transparency. Harrowell stated that this left the door wide open for State looting and corruption raising the real possibility of internationally certified diamonds financing renewed political violence in Zimbabwe.
He said instead of suspending Zimbabwe for “flagrant breaches of its code”, members of the Kimberley Process had “settled on a weak compromise agreement, which Zimbabwean authorities have repeatedly breached”.
“Mpofu and his cronies have demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the scheme’s rules. They seem intent on pursuing their violent, self-serving exploitation of the country’s diamond wealth.
“Nobody should be under the illusion that this is about anything other than lining the pockets of Zanu PF and their allies, who are being squeezed by economic sanctions,” said Harrowell.
Zanu PF and Obert Mpofu have since dismissed the report saying it was “cobbled” by a group of people with an agenda against Zimbabwe. While Zanu PF’s spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said the accusations were part of “a propaganda campaign by the British government to smear Zanu PF and the country, Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, refused to speak about the subject preferring only to say: “I do not talk to people I do not know,” before his mobile phone went off.
However Gumbo said: “It (Global Witness) is a group opposed to Zanu PF which is sponsored by the British. As far as we are concerned this is propaganda by the British which is unacceptable. They are fighting against us.”
Efforts to get comment from the army proved fruitless by the time of going to print. Global Witness has since urged the international community to suspend Zimbabwe from the Kimberley Process Scheme until it can prove its diamonds are not bankrolling violence and human rights abuses, some of the reasons why the West slapped sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and his inner cabal in 2001.
Harrowell said Zimbabwe must immediately withdraw the army from the diamond fields; hold rights abusers to account and suspend imports and exports of rough diamonds until the diamond sector meets international standards.
“It should also suspend the introduction of new investors into Marange until the legality of current joint ventures can be established and effective oversight implemented,” Harrowell said.
The report comes a week before a crucial Kimberley Process meeting in Israel.