Zim diamonds in spotlight again

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THE Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition (KPCSC) has called on the international diamond marketing watchdog, the Kimberley Process, to urgently send a crack team to Zimbabwe to investigate alleged rampant human rights abuses in the Marange diamond fields.

BY RICHARD CHIDZA

In a statement this week, KPCSC described Marange as an “open prison”, with citizens groaning under the weight of the State’s heavy handedness.

The statement came in the wake of wild-cat demonstrations by villagers who accused the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company of “virtually cutting the Marange community from the rest of Zimbabwe.”

“Visitors to Marange are required to obtain a permit from the police in Mutare before entering the community. Community members found without national identity documents are taken to the military base, where they are sometimes tortured or forced to pay a ransom,” KPCSC said.

“This is a daily occurrence. In reality, the Marange community is an open prison, where freedom of movement and association has been withdrawn by the Zimbabwe government.

This is in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Section 21 of African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and more importantly, this is in blatant violation of Sections 49, 51, 52, 56 and 58 of the Zimbabwe Constitutions,” the coalition said in a hard-hitting statement.

The rights group claimed State security agents were applying brute force to drive out illegal artisanal miners.

“The coalition has seen images of artisanal miners mauled by vicious ZCDC [Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company] security dogs in Marange. We are appalled with several reports from artisanal miners saying they are first handcuffed by the security guards and thereafter, dogs are set on them. Continued violence against the Marange community and artisanal miners is unacceptable,” the group added.

Government has, according to the rights group, also failed to invest in the surrounding communities despite a 100% ownership of the companies now plundering the precious gems.

“In light of the foregoing, we find it extremely difficult to classify Zimbabwe’s Marange diamonds as conflict free. Violations of community rights by legitimate governments is at the heart of calls by the coalition and international NGOs [non-governmental organisations] such as Human Rights Watch, Global Witness, Impact (formerly Partnership Africa Canada) and Amnesty International to widen the definition of ‘conflict diamonds’.

“The coalition believes that securing the rights of diamond mining communities is at the core of the reasons for the formation of the KPCS,” the statement said.