BY CLAYTON MASEKESA
MANICALAND Provincial Affairs minister Mandiitawepi Chimene (pictured) has unwittingly confirmed the fatal shooting of diamond panners by State security agents assigned to guard the Chiadzwa diamond fields and called for dialogue among the stakeholders to end the bloody conflicts.
Speaking at a dialogue meeting on Marange Community Benefit Schemes organised by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) in Mutare last week, Chimene urged the government to end its use of brute force on the panners, but engage them for a workable solution.
“We have heard and seen many things happening at Chiadzwa,” she said
“There are illegal diamond panners there and they always fight with security agents because they also want the diamonds.
“It is not good for us, as government, to always fire guns at them.
“We need the right approach to deal with them (illegal panners). There is need to have dialogue with them.”
The government has previously denied reports that soldiers guarding the diamond fields fired live ammunition to drive out the panners.
In November 2008, the government carried out a brutal exercise codenamed Operation Hakudzokwi (No Return) in the Marange diamonds fields, which it said was meant to flush out illegal panners.
According to human rights groups, at least 200 people died during the violent crackdown. The government has, however, kept mum over the rights violations.
“We all know that there are numerous interests in the area seeking to exploit the diamonds,” Chimene said.
“As government, there is now an urgent need to craft ways on how best we can solve the issue of security agents against the diamond panners.
“We do not want to see further conflict there. I need to help those people and I am ready to do that.
“My office is ready to work with anyone on issues of Chiadzwa.
“I want to work with dedicated people, who will bring good results. We want to make history together on this issue.”
She blasted the five companies previously engaged by the government to mine in the Chiadzwa diamond fields for reneging on their pledge to fund the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust.
“That is why they were chased away. How can they lie to President (Robert) Mugabe about that cheque? That was demeaning to our head of State,” Chimene said.
In June 2012, Mugabe paraded a $1,5 million dummy cheque after the companies claimed they had deposited the money into the Zimunya/Marange Community Share Ownership Trust account for community development projects. It later turned out that Mugabe had been sold a dummy.
“The new company ZCDC (Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company) has inherited the mining operations and we should give them time. I know that definitely they will do something to currently in the process of putting up workable systems,” Chimene said.