Zim rulers running diamond trade with ‘corruption, violence’

Zimbabwe’s political and military leaders have used violence and intimidation to seize control of the country’s lucrative diamond business, a report said on Monday.

According to Global Witness, a campaigning group, the Zimbabwean army has abused civilians in Marange’s diamond fields over the past three years while the ruling Zanu PF party is blocking oversight of the joint venture company boards via its supporters.

“The investment deals have been done with scant regard for legal process against a background of violence and intimidation, and are dangerously lacking in transparency,” said Elly Harrowell, a Global Witness campaigner. “This leaves the door wide open for state looting and corruption, and raises the very real possibility of internationally certified diamonds financing renewed political violence in Zimbabwe.”

The Global Witness report said the minister of mines, Obert Mpofu, a Zanu-PF stalwart, has led efforts to block oversight of the companies, Canadile Miners and Mdaba Diamonds, by imposing his allies as board members, and sidelining the state mining company, ZMDC.

Mbada Diamonds is chaired by Robert Mhlanga, former air vice-marshal and a star witness against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai during his trial for treason in 2003.

Blood diamonds
Global Witness called on Zimbabwe to 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. The group said Zimbabwe should also suspend the introduction of new investors into Marange until the legality of current joint ventures can be established, and effective oversight implemented.

Human rights groups last week criticised a recommendation to allow Zimbabwe to sell its diamonds in international markets, saying any such decision must be postponed until abuses are stopped.

The criticism from Human Rights Watch came after Abbey Chikane, a monitor for the initiative set up to halt the trade in “blood diamonds” — rough diamonds that fuel conflicts — said Zimbabwe was “on track” to meet international diamond mining standards.

The initiative, Kimberley process certification, previously recommended Zimbabwe’s suspension over their findings of illicit trading and human rights abuses.

Chikane, a South African businessman and management consultant, said in his report that “the government of Zimbabwe has demonstrated its commitment to meet the minimum requirements of the Kimberley process”.

HRW called Chikane’s advice flawed as it ignored alleged human rights abuses in Marange. Allegations of killings and human rights violations by troops and smuggling of blood diamonds have surrounded the discovery of the extensive Marange deposits, in eastern Zimbabwe, four years ago. – guardian.co.uk

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