SW Radio Africa news - The Independent Voice of Zimbabwe

Diamond rights campaigners remain in hiding

By Alex Bell
01 June 2010

Campaigners from a rights group that has exposed the abuses taking place at the Chiadzwa diamond fields have remained in hiding since last week, with the police still set on tracking them down.

The group from the Mutare based Centre for Research and Development (CRD) were forced into hiding last week, after a raid at their offices. Police were apparently searching for Farai Maguwu, the CRD director. According to one of the CRD officials in hiding, Maguwu’s deputy, James Mupfumi, was abducted last week Thursday while on his way to the CRD’s offices. After interrogating Mupfumi, it’s understood that the police then went to Maguwu’s home and arrested his brother, Lisben Maguwu.

Lisben was finally freed on Monday after Magistrate Enia Ndiraya granted him bail and remanded him to June 14 to face charges of obstructing justice. Prosecutor Simon Chabuka told the court that Lisben “obstructed justice” by preventing the police from arresting his brother Farai last Thursday. But he did not explain how Lisben was supposed to have done this.

Lisben’s own lawyer Blessing Nyamaropa, was also forced into hiding last week while trying to help his client. Nyamaropa, from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), faced interrogation and harassment from two notorious Harare police officers, who threatened him. According to the ZLHR, Chief Superintendent Chrispen Makedenge and Detective Inspector Henry Dowa, who have been implicated in the harassment and arrest of several political and human rights defenders, have apparently traveled from Harare to assist the local police in hunting down Farai Maguwu.

During the interrogation Makedenge and Dowa asked Nyamaropa why he was representing Maguwu’s brother Lisben. The two police officers also wanted Nyamaropa to disclose to them the identity of the person who had given him instructions to represent Lisben. Nyamaropa was held at the police station where he was forced to disclose personal details, such as his identity, residence and his mobile phone numbers. He was eventually released, after being threatened not to continue trying to intervene. He was also warned that he was being followed and his actions would be monitored.

Meanwhile Farai Maguwu’s whereabouts have remained unknown, amid mounting fears for his safety and the safety of the other CRD campaigners.

The CRD has been outspoken in exposing the human rights atrocities at Chiadzwa, even meeting with an international diamond expert last week to give evidence of ongoing abuse at the hands of the military and the rampant smuggling.

But Abbey Chikane, who was appointed by the international diamond trade watchdog the Kimberley Process, to monitor Zimbabwe’s attempts to fall in line with trade standards, on Thursday, said the country was “on the right track.”

 

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