MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Zimbabwe "hell on earth" spurs demand for expanded Kimberley Process

Published by MAC on 2008-12-22

NGOs pioneering the concept of "conflict diamonds" - which led to the Kimberley Process that seeks to staunch their supply - have moved closer to extending the definition of those who should be indicted under the scheme.

Partnership Africa Canada and Global Witness state that: "The perpetration of human rights abuses and indiscriminate extra-judicial killing by governments in pursuit of Kimberley Process objectives is little better than the problem the scheme seeks to end."

They have specifially condemned the Zimbabwean regime, not only for failing to prevent illicitly mined diamonds from reaching the market, but also for the massive violence visited by "security" forces last month as they took over the Chiadza diamond fields,allegedly mudering up to fifty smallscale miners.


Conflict diamond scheme must suspend Zimbabwe

Press Release, Partnership Africa Canada and Global Witness

12th December 2008

Members of the Kimberley Process (KP) Civil Society Coalition are calling upon the KP to suspend Zimbabwe from the rough diamond certification scheme, in light of recent violence used by the government to take control of the Chiadzwa diamond fields. Police reportedly shot and killed as many as 50 informal diamond diggers in November's raid, allegedly termed "Operation No Return".

"The KP was designed to halt and prevent conflict diamonds through an international regulatory regime based on internal controls in each participating country," said Ian Smillie, of Partnership Africa Canada. "The perpetration of human rights abuses and indiscriminate extra-judicial killing by governments in pursuit of Kimberley Process objectives is little better than the problem the scheme seeks to end. The Kimberley Process should act to condemn and prevent such violence."

As the economic and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe spirals further into misery and ruin, revenues from Zimbabwe's diamonds-whether mined and marketed within or outside formal government control-are helping to prop up Robert Mugabe's repressive and increasingly violent regime. "The Kimberley Process must take a stand against the harnessing of diamonds for systematic abuses by a pariah regime," said Annie Dunnebacke of Global Witness. "We can no longer assume that Zimbabwe has the ability or the ethical standards needed to control its diamonds in ways that conform to the principles espoused by the Kimberley Process."

In addition, there are indications, including statements from Zimbabwe's Bank of Reserve Governor Gideon Gono, of large volumes of Zimbabwean diamonds being smuggled to other countries in contravention of the Kimberley Process. In recent months, smugglers have been arrested in India and in Dubai with large quantities of diamonds, reportedly of Zimbabwean origin. Taken together with the violence and killings, these leakages compromise the legitimate international trade in KP-certified diamonds, and are a clear signal that Zimbabwe is no longer able to control a significant proportion of its diamond exports.

NGOs concerned about ending conflict diamonds call upon the Kimberley Process and its member states to act immediately:

*First, the Kimberley Process must suspend Zimbabwe from participating in the certification scheme. A suspension of shipments will deprive legitimate producers in Zimbabwe of immediate revenue, but it will not stop them from mining and stockpiling diamonds against the day when Zimbabwe has been given a clean bill of health.

*Second, the Kimberley Process must issue a clear and unequivocal statement about the need for all Participants to observe basic human rights in the enforcement of Kimberley Process minimum standards. Violence, the suspension of the rule of law, and human rights violations cannot be tolerated in the pursuit of Kimberley Process aims and objectives.

*Third, all KP participants must be vigilant and must step up their efforts in the search for illicit Zimbabwe diamonds.

For media inquiries, please contact:

In Ottawa:

Ian Smillie, Partnership Africa Canada +1 613 237-6768 or +1 613 728-9725

In London: Annie Dunnebacke, Global Witness + 44 207 561 6397; Cell +44 7703 1208401

For more information on Partnership Africa Canada, please see: www.pacweb.org

For more information on the Kimberley Process, please see: http://www.kimberleyprocess.com/


Eerie silence at Zimbabwe mine

by David Farira Mutare, Zimbabwe

BBC News

4th December 2008

Godwin Muti was one of the first people to descend on Chiadzwa when word spread that diamonds had been discovered in the arid and impoverished part of eastern Zimbabwe.

Mr Muti, 31, an unemployed father-of-two, was wallowing in poverty. He could hardly pay rent for a one-room house where he lodged in the old township of Sakubva in Mutare city.

When he heard about the diamonds, he joined thousands of others in the rush to Chiadzwa, then an unknown and desolate place.

A few months later his life had been transformed.

Suddenly he was living in the middle-class suburb of Dangamvura, the proud owner of a sedan car and a number of homes that had been beyond his wildest dreams.

Dealers flocked to Mutare from all over the world, including South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria, Guinea, Mauritania, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel and Belgium.

So once Mr Muti got the diamonds from the fields he could immediately sell them.

They were prepared to part with as much as $200 (£134) per carat - a handsome price considering panners could sell stones up to 15 carats.

Mr Muti's only problem was the police and their dogs that would constantly chase him and his fellow miners from the fields.

But Mr Muti, and thousands of others, soon found a way round that obstacle - they formed syndicates with the police officers manning the fields.

Suddenly, poor police officers earning less than $10 (£7) a month were driving new cars too.

The authorities launched several operations to rid Chiadzwa of illegal miners but the hunt for precious gems continued unabated.

Then three weeks ago Mr Muti was surprised to see helicopters hovering over the diamond fields. Then heavily armed soldiers arrived.

That was the beginning of a brutal campaign to remove illegal miners and the diamond-dealers once and for all.

It was dubbed Hakudzokwi kumunda, meaning "Operation you would never go back to the diamond fields".

Scattered bodies

Reports then began to filter through that bodies of dead panners were piling up at the mortuary in Mutare Provincial Hospital.

Nineteen decomposing bodies at the facility have still not been claimed.

This prompted the police to make a public appeal last week to relatives with missing loved-ones to visit the mortuary.

"The hospital authorities have said their mortuary is not working well and the piling of bodies is straining their facilities," said police spokesman in Manicaland, Inspector Brian Makomeke.

"Some of the deceased panners might be foreigners and we are not sure because they had no form of identification."

An unknown number of bodies were scattered in the forests surrounding the fields. Several had died from gunshot wounds while others had succumbed to diseases like cholera.

About 20,000 illegal panners, who had come from all over Zimbabwe to make the diamond fields their permanent homes, fled in all directions.

'Hell on earth'

Within a week of the operation there was not a single miner left in the diamonds fields.

Mr Muti was lucky to escape unhurt. But he says it was hell and vowed not to return to the fields as long as the soldiers are there.

"I thank my gods I escaped unhurt," he says.

"It was hell on earth. The soldiers are shooting to kill."

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is calling for the alleged violations to be documented so the perpetrators can be brought to justice once normality returns to the country.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights accused the army of heavy-handed tactics to remove the illegal miners.

And the regional co-ordinator of ZimRights, Reverend Stephen Maengamhura, accused the authorities of "a wholesale violation of rights".

He puts the number of bodies in mortuaries across the province at 106.

"I am not employed and this was my only means of survival," Mr Muti says.

"I may now be forced to sell what I bought when I was in Chiadzwa." His story is similar to that of thousands of other desperate Zimbabweans who descended on Chiadzwa, seeking instant fortunes.

Teachers, especially those in schools close to the diamond fields, abandoned their classrooms to join the diamond rush - their pupils followed.

Even factories and industries were left with skeleton staff after workers downed tools and headed for Chiadzwa.

Moses Mawire, 37, a senior mathematics teacher at a secondary school close to Chiadzwa, has not reported to duty for almost a year now.

"Why should I suffer when I can easily go to Chiadzwa and become a rich person?" Mr Mawire said.

The reporter's name and those of the diamond miners have been changed for their protection.

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