Non-governmental organisations have been given the greenlight to play a watchdog role in diamond mining activities in the country, it has emerged.
Edward Chindori-Chininga, the chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy, said a delegation from the Kimberley Process Review Team led by a Liberian government minister Kpandel Fayia told his committee last week that the discussions that went on in St Petersburg, Russia, over the KP certification of Zimbabwe diamonds recommended that NGOs should be allowed to play their watchdog function in diamond mining.
“The KP Process Review Team said one of the recommendations at St Petersburg in Russia was that there should be a focal point of NGOs in Zimbabwe,” said Chininga.
“As a committee we recommended that outside NGOs cannot come and put up systems and so we suggested that they should work under one umbrella body of Nango (National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations). Outside NGOs create political problems.”
Last Thursday, during a ceremony to mark the Kimberley Process certification of Zimbabwe’s diamonds at the Harare International Airport, the Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Obert Mpofu attacked NGOs monitoring diamond mining activities in Marange.
“We had a lot of allegations supported by our own people that there are human rights abuses in Chiadzwa and that there had been 200 deaths,” Mpofu said. “But they cannot show us any grave.
Villagers in the area could also not account for that, yet Zimbabwean institutions supported it.
Our NGOs do not know anything about what is happening in Marange, besides one or two people that decided to feed on falsehoods.”
However, Nango chief executive officer Cephas Zinhumwe said although they perceived Mpofu’s statements at the airport as unfortunate, his organisation welcomed this latest development where NGOs would be allowed to play their watchdog function.
“If such statements are coming from a minister, it would give a wrong perception on how NGOs in Zimbabwe work. For example, in rural areas our people will have serious challenges because of that perception given by the minister,” he said.
Zinhumwe said if NGOs were to play a watchdog function, they would put pressure that there be transparency in the way diamonds were handled in the country.
“The country needs to know where this money is going because Zimbabwe is reeling in poverty.
There are budgetary deficits in the health and education sectors, and transparency is important,” Zinhumwe said.
“NGOs will also be able to report on issues to do with human rights concerns within and outside the diamond fields because there are a lot of things that will be happening there which civil society would be interested in. We also need to ensure that displaced people are going to have proper accommodation because we do not want to go back to cases like Murambatsvina, where people were promised alternative accommodation which never came,” said Zinhumwe.
He said his organisation was in the process of choosing a technical team with expertise in diamond issues to monitor the diamond mining in the country.
More Miners discovered
A delegation from the Kimberley Process Review Team led by Liberian government minister Kpandel Fayia, has discovered that there were more companies mining diamonds in Zimbabwe’s eastern districts than the two officially announced by the government.
The delegation which arrived into the country last week told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy that Zimbabwe should be wary of the unknown companies mining in Marange and Chimanimani.
They said if the operations of those unknown diamond mining companies were not checked, the nation would end up not fully benefiting from its diamond resources.
The Kimberley Process Review Team was giving its findings after going around the country meeting different stakeholders in the diamond industry, as well as visiting Marange diamond fields to assess if Zimbabwe had complied with Kimberley Process Certification Scheme procedures.
NewsDay investigations confirmed Fayia’s claims that apart from Canadile Miners and Mbada Diamonds, the two companies awarded contracts to mine diamonds legally in Chiadzwa, two companies ran by the Chinese and Russians were also mining diamonds in the country.
In Chiadzwa, a Chinese company – Anjin — has built massive infrastructure while a Russian company has started mining recently discovered diamonds at Charleswood Farm, formerly owned by senior MDC-T official Roy Bennett.
Although the Mines and Energy committee chairman, Edward Chindori-Chininga, refused to comment on the issue, other MPs seconded to the committee said members of the KP Process Review Team confirmed that during the team’s investigations in Chiadzwa they discovered that there were more companies mining in Chiadzwa.