By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
22 January 2014
Just weeks before a second international auction of Zimbabwe’s diamonds is planned to take place, a report detailing ongoing abuses at the Chiadzwa alluvial fields has been released.
The auction, which is set to take place in Belgium in February, follows the sale of almost 300,000 carats of Zimbabwe’s diamonds last year. That auction was the first since Europe removed its restrictive measures from the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) shortly after the disputed elections in July 2013.
The European Union (EU), and in particular Belgium, has faced intense criticism for allowing Zimbabwe’s diamonds back onto the international market, despite human rights and other concerns at the Chiadzwa diamond fields.
These concerns have again been highlighted in a report by the Centre for Research and Development (CRD) which has detailed ongoing abuses of diamond panners and local villagers. The report also raises serious questions about transparency and accountability at the diamond mines.
The report details incidents of assaults, dog attacks and prolonged detentions by security officials working for the mining firms, against people accused of illegal diamond panning. 13 pages of the report details these attacks, which all happened over the last year, with accompanying pictures showing the extent of the injuries people have sustained.
James Mupfumi, the acting Director of the CRD, said Wednesday that the government, as a joint venture partner of the firms implicated in the abuses, has a direct responsibility to intervene and ensure the situation is controlled.
“We are worried about these continuing incidents of human rights abuses and the failure by government to address the issue, especially the issue of illegal panners which we believe is a direct result of the desperate socio economic problems in the country,” Mupfumi told SW Radio Africa.
“The panners are acting out of desperation. There is no support for the local communities,” Mupfumi added.
The CRD report also calls for better transparency measures to be enforced at the diamond mines, to ensure that diamond profits help the communities, as promised by the government.
“The biggest challenge though is that the arrangement of the mining companies and the people involved, involve government and influential people in government. So the police won’t investigate. We need political will and proper transparency measures to combat this,” Mupfumi said.