Sunday, May 30, 2010
Mugabe's blood diamonds
May 30, 2010 12:16 AM | By Zoli Mangena, Jonathan Clayton and Jan Raath
A one-horse frontier town is the centre of an illicit, hugely lucrative trade propping up the Harare regime. Zoli Mangena, Jonathan Clayton and Jan Raath report
ABOUT TURN: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe Picture: REUTERS
The illegal diamond trade in Zimbabwe is believed to be the single biggest source of "blood - or conflict - diamonds" in the world and one of the last cash lifelines of President Robert Mugabe and his cohorts.
An investigation by The Times of London has established how the Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe - a fabulously rich and virtually unexploited source of diamonds - is under the control of the top men in Zimbabwe's secret services.
Despite the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) ordering the Zimbabwean government to halt all illegal diamond dealings, which was reported this week, that country's government seems hellbent on circumventing the directive. Late this week it raided a civil society organisation that has been protesting about human rights abuses and the illegal exploitation of the diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe.
The KPCS is a joint governmental, industry and civil society initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds - rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments. The trade in these illicit gems has fuelled decades of devastating conflicts in countries such as Angola, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone.
The KPCS imposes strict requirements on its members to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as "conflict free".
Obert Mpofu, Zimbabwe's mines minister, confirmed on Wednesday he had suspended the sale of diamonds pending the finalisation of the KPCS process after the KPCS monitor Abbey Chikane, who is also chairman of the Southern African Diamond Board, ordered Zimbabwe to stop selling diamonds unlawfully to Dubai.
"The real issue is (that) Chikane told Zimbabwean authorities that, while they can try to go it alone and sell their diamonds outside the KPCS, they were going to face serious problems. He demanded that they must s top their diamond sales," a senior diamond mining executive said.
In 2006, the Mugabe regime cancelled the mining lease for Marange that had been secured by a British-registered company, African Consolidated Resources (ACR). Last year a court confirmed that ACR was the rightful owner, but Mpofu and General Constantine Chiwenga, the Defence Force chief, have refused to release their grip on the lucrative trade.
Attempts by the country's new unity government to gain access to the fields to find out what is happening there have failed.
Analysts say they fear that the elite in the regime are using the diamond wealth to entrench themselves before an expected succession battle when 86-year-old Mugabe finally bows out.
When London Times journalists arrived in the one-horse frontier town of Manica, in Mozambique, until recently a poor farming centre with a population of less than 1000, they were shown a handful of rough diamonds by a man called Bayo, a burly Guinean diamond trader also known as Mr Big. "We can help get them wherever you want - Guinea, Dubai, even Antwerp," he told the reporters, and gestured to a group of women - wives and girlfriends - used as "mules" in the illicit trade, who were watching television in the other room.
Another man pulled out a wad of dollars, counted out several thousand and handed them to Bayo.
It had taken the journalists barely a day to make contact with those involved in the illegal diamond trade from neighbouring Zimbabwe to Mozambique.
It remains to be seen whether the KPCS process will stop the racket.
If the Zimbabwean government's response to the directive is anything to go by, it is unlikely to make a difference. This week it started venting its anger on civil society groups campaigning for a stop in the Marange diamond trade.
One of the organisations which has been lobbying for the suspension of the selling of diamonds, the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), was raided by police on Thursday as Chikane was leaving Harare.
According to the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a non-governmental organisation monitoring the government's activities, eight police officers from the Criminal Investigations Department and four operatives from the Central Intelligence Organisation swooped on the CRD offices in Mutare looking for the diamond watchdog's director, Farai Maguwu.
Maguwu had met Chikane on Tuesday and raised serious concerns about the controversial mining activities at Chiadzwa, another diamond field in eastern Zimbabwe and the presence of soldiers there.
The crisis coalition said it was outraged by the "unwarranted interference in the CRD operations by the police and intelligence officers who want to cover up human rights abuses, smuggling and other illegal activities taking place at Marange".
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May 30 2010 01:48:51 AM
Zimbabwe has no future so long as Comrade Robert Mugabe and his dishonest government of ZANU PF continue in power.
S Africa continues to back Mugabe when he was the loser of the election and this of course questions the honesty of S Africa as an impartial African country.
Zimbabwe has little chance getting ahead when it is run by ruthless gangsters and they are assisted by a fooled government in S Africa
Comments by Sonny
This is the only way the depraved despot Mugabe can buy friends in SA.
Otherwise he is just a feeble "has-been!"
How will Mugabe and his Zanu PF allow an Independent newspaper?