The government has launched a major emergency operation aimed at ridding Chiadzwa of illicit diamond deals in preparation of a crucial visit this weekend by a team from the Kimberley Process (KP).
The KP is expected to issue the long-awaited certificate for the sale of the controversial Chiadzwa diamonds and the operation is aimed at creating a semblance of order at the fields.
NewsDay was at Marange at the weekend where sources confirmed the operation but expressed fears the exercise could face difficulties because of well-knit diamond syndicates involving security agents manning the fields.
Villagers said there had been a significant increase in military and police traffic in the past few days.
Roadblocks have become tighter than the last time our news crew visited the area last month.
Frisking of people going in and out of the Chiadzwa area has intensified.
KP monitor, the controversial Abbey Chikane, is expected to lead the delegation coming to certify Zimbabwe’s diamonds after protracted haggling over the gems.
The certification will allow the diamonds to be sold on formal international markets. Zimbabwe is desperate to off-load about six million carats of rough-cut diamonds worth about $2 billion it has stockpiled over the months.
The money is urgently needed to resuscitate the ailing economy.
The KP agreed to partially certify the diamonds from Chiadzwa while monitoring the country’s compliance with its requirements.
“People are in the mountains. They were chased by soldiers and the police,” said Admire Tumburwa, a villager at Hotsprings. “We heard that Chikane is coming any time from now.”
Tumburwa said most of the illegal miners operating in Chiadzwa were allegedly acting in cahoots with soldiers manning the fields.
“They were chased away. It was a serious operation,” said another villager. Police spokesperson in Manicaland Province, Brian Makomeke said there was no special operation in Chiadzwa but “our normal security operation”.
“There is no special operation. It’s our normal security,” Makomeke said.
But villagers said illegal miners had deserted the fields following the operation which started on Friday.
Human rights campaigners said many illegal diamond seekers were injured during the operation.
“What we have been told is that illegal miners were chased from the fields and some of them got injured in the process,” said a human rights campaigner, who refused to be identified.
Chikane has reportedly written to the government giving notice of his intention to visit the country on August 7.
“I wrote to the Zimbabwean Government giving them the date I wish to travel,” Chikane reportedly said.
Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu confirmed Chikane’s imminent visit to the state-controlled media but declined to give more details.