The new Diamond Act of Zimbabwe must promote transparency and fair compensation to the local communities especially amidst reports of serious siltation of rivers and dams in Chiadzwa area resulting in water shortage and pollution (Newsday, Diamond companies ‘kill’ Chiadzwa rivers, 22/06/11).

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So much has gone wrong since the Mugabe regime declared the 10-square mile diamond rich Chiadzwa area open in 2006, despite African Consolidated Resources (ACR) having a legal claim on them. Eddie Cross, MDC MP for Bulawayo South recently wrote:

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“Before ACR could begin mining, they too were given the standard Zanu-pf treatment of illegal but forced dispossession, forced occupation of the claims by various Zanu-pf linked firms and individuals and wild invasion by small scale miners who simply mined wherever they could and sold the stones they found to the nearest buyers,” (Bulawayo24.com, 09/06/11). That was after Zanu-pf had seized a Bulawayo family’s claim over the Limpopo River diamonds. Then there was tragic chaos in Chiadzwa.

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According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), there were human rights abuses by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the Airforce of Zimbabwe in the Marange diamond fields including extra judicial killings, beatings, torture, forced labour, and child labour during the period October 2008-June 2009.

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“The first three weeks of the operation were particularly brutal over the period October 27 to November 16, 2008 the army killed at least 214 miners. The army has also been engaged fully and openly in the smuggling of diamonds, thereby perpetuating the very crime it was deployed to prevent,” said the HRW (“Diamonds in the Rough”, 26/06/09).

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Zanu-pf has been accused of using the mineral deposits to reward the military and keep them loyal to Robert Mugabe. There are also allegations that the regime has used proceeds from “illegal” diamond sales to buy “a war chest” claims that appear plausible,  in the wake of Jonathan Moyo’s threat of the “looming danger” and continuing loose talk of a military coup by the regime’s loyalists should Zanu-pf and Mugabe lose elections.

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It is therefore worrying to see that the proposed Act seeks to entrench the role of the military and sanitise their human rights abuses as well as incorporate elements of martial law in what should remain as normal civilian law. One example of an objectionable requirement in the proposed legislation is the stipulation that everyone including ministry officials and geologists must get clearance from the army and the CIO to visit the Chiadzwa diamond fields.

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Ironically, a 10-member youth delegation of the Chinese Communist Party had the privilege of touring the Chiadzwa diamond fields in May, courtesy of Zanu-pf, whereas the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Portfolio Committee was barred twice in March 2010 (The Zimbabwean, MPs barred from visiting Chiadzwa, 10/08/10).

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Civil society organisations should lobby the Parliament of Zimbabwe for a clause or clauses providing for diamond exploration and mining levies payable to rural councils for financing local community programmes and projects and for the sustainable use of the environment. There should also be a clause clearly stating that the polluter pays.

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Before ratifying the proposed Diamond Act, the Parliament of Zimbabwe must ensure there will be fair compensation for displaced locals; adequate and verifiable demilitarisation of the diamond areas; maximum and verifiable consultation with among others, civil society and genuine human rights organisations (not just Zanu-pf NGOs) and guarantee transparency in the administration of the Act via unrestricted and non-partisan legislative oversight of diamond mining in Zimbabwe.

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©Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, Political Analyst, London, zimanalysis2009@gmail.com