Days before a crucial Kimberley Process meeting in Israel to review the ban on Zimbabwe’s controversial diamond exports, concern is mounting over the continued detention of human rights activist Farai Maguwu.
Maguwu, director of the Mutare-based Centre for Research and Development, has been monitoring alleged human rights abuses by government security forces in the Marange diamond fields. His June 3 arrest sparked protests by local and international rights groups, including Amnesty International and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC).
This week SALC said Maguwu’s arrest ‘followed closely” after his meeting with Kimberley Process (KP) monitor Abbey Chikane, a South African businessman mandated to assess whether Zimbabwe has met the minimum standards of the KP.
Chikane provoked outrage from rights organisations when he recommended that Zimbabwe should be allowed to resume gem exports.
In an interview with the London-based Zimbabwe radio station, SW Radio Africa, Chikane said Maguwu had given him a ‘fraudulently obtained document”. Asked if he had handed this over to Zimbabwean authorities, he replied: ‘I did not want
to be in possession of stolen material.”
Asked this week how he justified his recommendation that Zimbabwean diamond exports should resume, Chikane said the country had met the main KP requirements. He declined to comment on Maguwu’s arrest, saying it was sub judice.
Zimbabwe-based human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, who is assisting Maguwu’s legal team, said the charges against Maguwu remained unclear.
Mtetwa claimed that detective Henry Dowa — the policeman investigating the case — had said he was travelling to South Africa to meet Chikane. ‘He says he is going to frame the charges against Farai once he’s met Mr Chikane, so even the police themselves are not sure,” she said.
SALC’s executive director, Nicole Fritz, appealed to the South African government to ‘speak out” about Maguwu’s detention and raise the issue with Zimbabwean authorities.
‘We also want them to speak out against the mining situation,” she said.
‘South Africa should examine its own role in these abuses, especially that of South African-linked actors.”
Leading rights group Global Witness this week released a damning report titled Return of the Blood Diamond and called for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the KP ‘until it can prove its diamonds aren’t bankrolling violence and abuse”.
Zimbabwe has lined up buyers for Marange diamonds in the United Arab Emirates, Belgium, the United Kingdom and South Africa. Between October last year and April this year, Zimbabwe made 15 large sales to these countries — none of which was authorised by the KP.
Chikane claims he faced harassment and surveillance during his visit to Zimbabwe. He told SW Radio Africa that he feared being found in possession of ‘stolen documents”, an apparent reference to the report given to him by Maguwu.
Meanwhile, Mpho Mmutle, the former senior police officer named in Chikane’s report as an associate of African Consolidated Resources (ACR), a company fighting for control of Marange, has denied the Global Witness claim that he tried to stop Chikane from continuing his investigation of Zimbabwe’s diamond trade.
Mmutle said this week that he knew Chikane from their days in exile and ‘just wanted to alert him to developments that would harm his integrity and the KP monitoring process which he was leading”.
Mmutle described how he met Chikane in a Sandton restaurant, where he informed him of ‘a number of people who are connected to him and seem to have an interest in the Zimbabwean diamonds. He confirmed knowledge of those people and … called one of them in our presence.”
Mmutle said he was surprised that Chikane’s report described in detail what was agreed was an informal meeting. Mmutle denied Chikane’s suggestion that he had been offered a top security job by ACR. He said he had become involved ‘in the issue of Mr Chikane by default, because I was following up on some information about some illegal movements of diamonds”.