Martin Rapaport recently discussed the status of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe with human rights activist Farai Maguwu. Maguwu, director of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD) and a member of the National Association of Nongovernmental Organisations (NANGO) and of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, was arrested this past June by the Zimbabwean government for sharing information about human rights violations with Abbey Chikane, the Kimberley Process (KP) monitor.
Martin Rapaport: Can you speak about why and how you were jailed?
Farai Maguwu: I am not at liberty to make a comment on the case because it is before the courts.
MR: What is the current situation in Zimbabwe and, in particular, the situation in Marange?
FM: The situation in Marange is difficult to assess at the moment. My recent arrest and ongoing court case have slowed down our research work, meaning there is little knowledge available from the field. However, information from reliable sources says there has been a steady decline in the cases of human rights abuses, such as dog bites, beatings and rape. On the other hand, company employees appear to be mastering the art of stealing diamonds and smuggling them to local and foreign buyers. This explains why the illegal diamond trade in Mozambique is flourishing — to the point that Mozambique is contemplating joining the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), even though the country does not produce nor polish diamonds.
On a positive note, the two companies officially mining in Chiadzwa — Mbada and Canadile — have managed to secure their claims by employing hundreds of private security guards. However, the bigger portion of Chiadzwa remains under the control of the military, thereby allowing the continuation of illegal panning and human rights abuses.
MR: What type of problems exists in the area?
FM: Illegal panning activities, sometimes coordinated by the military, continue to be reported, which in turn trigger the flow of diamonds onto the illegal market. Though statistics are declining, villagers continue to report cases of extortion and robbery by the military.
Company employees are stealing diamonds. They sell these to the foreign buyers who flock to Marange daily or they cross the border to Mozambique where wealthy foreign buyers have set up camp.
Local villagers are also wreaking havoc by getting involved in illegal panning activities and the smuggling of diamonds to local and foreign buyers. While the rate and scale of panning and smuggling have declined significantly in recent months, a number of locals continue to earn a living through these illicit activities.
For now, the most serious problem pertains to the pressure being applied to more than 40 families to vacate Marange and relocate to a government farm about 40 kilometers — 25 miles — north of Marange. The families are demanding compensation before relocation. They are reluctant to move because they feel the government and mining companies are defaulting on their earlier promise to construct good accommodation, educational and health facilities in the area set apart for relocation. Some of the families are starving because they did not plant during the past season because they had been informed that they were going to be relocated during the rainy season.
There is also the environmental challenge. The two companies, Canadile Miners and Mbada Diamonds, did not conduct the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before the commencement of mining operations, as stipulated by the Environmental Management Act of 2003. Their operations are causing dam siltation, resulting in the local inhabitants failing to secure adequate water for livestock and domestic purposes. Illegal panning activities are being carried out randomly and extensively, much to the detriment of the environment. The government’s response to the environmental degradation problem has been slow and largely ineffective.
MR: Is the Zimbabwean government restricting the ability of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to monitor the situation? If so, how?
FM: The government has restricted movement in the entire Marange area. Only people whose national identity documents have numbers showing that they were born in Marange are allowed into the Marange district. Anyone else needs a police clearance, which is nearly impossible to obtain. Even the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy has been barred a record four times this year alone from entering the diamond fields.
MR: Are the Mbada and Canadile operations free of human rights abuses?
FM: No. There are credible reports from miners who say they were assaulted by soldiers after being accused of stealing diamonds. Workers are also complaining that they are forced to work through weekends without being paid overtime. They are not offered protective clothing, in a blatant violation of our labor laws.
MR: In your view, should diamond companies be buying Kimberley Process (KP)–certified diamonds from Mbada and Canadile?
FM: They must use their own discretion.
MR: Is there a problem relocating the Mbada and Canadile operations?
FM: Yes, as I mentioned, more than 40 families are being threatened with forced relocation, without compensation.
MR: There have been claims that work in these two areas is being done by local villagers who are very happy to have work and that the Mbada and Canadile operations greatly benefit the community. Is this true?
FM: I am aware that there are a few locals who are employed by the companies, but the majority of the employees come from outside Marange. There has not been any significant corporate social investment in the area. If anything, the locals complained to us that the companies lied to them that they were going to upgrade their irrigation systems and start self-help projects for the locals, in addition to creating thousands of jobs for the local youths. And now the Diamond Technology Center, meant to train people in diamond cutting and polishing, as well as to do the cutting and polishing, is being set up in Mashonaland West Province, close to 300 kilometers — 190 miles — away from Marange. This will by no means create jobs for Marange people.
MR: Are there human rights abuses in other Marange areas?
FM: Yes. Extortion, forced labor, beatings and rape.
MR: Is there a relocation problem regarding these mining areas?
FM: Yes, but I am not sure how many families have been served with eviction notices so far.
MR: Are there minerals or things other than diamonds causing problems in the area?
FM: Not to the best of my knowledge.
MR: What is happening to the diamonds that are being mined in the Marange area outside of where Mbada and Canadile are operating?
FM: Nothing has been said of them. Only in recent weeks, and after sustained reporting by the local media, has the government acknowledged that the Chinese are also mining in Chiadzwa. No one knows the quantity of diamonds they have mined nor where these diamonds are being stored or sold.
MR: Who is mining these diamonds?
FM: A Chinese company called Anjin.
MR: Are they being sold with KP certificates?
FM: I have no idea.
MR: How and to whom are they being sold?
FM: I do not know.
MR: How much money has been paid for the Zimbabwean diamonds sold with KP certificates?
FM: The first auction of 900,000 carats fetched around $56 million according to official reports. The second auction was conducted secretly and no official statistics were made public.
MR: How much of this money has gone to the government?
FM: Of the $56 million, we are told $30 million went to the government.
MR: There are reports of a recent tender involving 3.56 million carats of old inventory of non-KP certified diamonds. Do you know anything about this tender?
MR: Who will get the money?
FM: Diamond money will either go to the central government or to quasi-state institutions that are under the control of Zimbabwe’s political elites.
MR: How will the diamonds be exported?
FM: I have no researched evidence.
MR: What advice do you have for companies that buy diamonds?
FM: There is a need to promote ethics in the diamond sector. Companies that do business in diamonds ought to ensure that diamonds are not being mined under inhumane conditions and that the money they use to buy diamonds will lead to poverty eradication and contribute to the attainment of Millennium Development Goals, especially in poor countries such as Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe.
MR: How can the diamond industry improve the situation in Zimbabwe?
FM: They must go an extra mile beyond just a business transaction. They need to help the government of Zimbabwe put in place a sound diamond policy that will ensure, among other things, security in and around the diamond fields, transparency and accountability. The policy must support the role of the Zimbabwe parliament to play an oversight role to ensure diamond mining is conducted according to the Zimbabwean laws, with a significant downstream impact on the economy. Finally, the diamond industry should assist efforts by the Zimbabwean civil society to ensure diamond mining activities are in line with international standards.
MR: How can they help you and the CRD to improve the situation?
FM: They can support the CRD with resources and training in order for the organization not to be persecuted into oblivion. CRD needs to be strengthened to improve its capacity to conduct research and advocacy in promoting good governance of natural resources in Zimbabwe and the entire region.
Article from the Rapaport Magazine - October 2010. To subscribe click here.