Rapaport Magazine

Torture in Zimbabwe

This report was obtained through confidential sources. All names and initials have been changed to protect the identity of the people involved. Many people are afraid to disclose what happened to them for fear of retribution by the authorities. Additional evidence about human rights in the diamond industry is available at sr.rapaport.com

By Rapaport News

The people of Marange, Zimbabwe, have seen little good from the enormous diamond wealth that was discovered in their lands. In 2006, a diamond rush by thousands of artisanal miners met with a violent crackdown from government forces, resulting in the loss of over 200 lives and the forcible eviction of 1,500 families. The government then restricted access to this 795,000-hectare zone by designating it a protected area. It awarded most of the land to a range of mining companies in dubious deals that served to conceal governmental elites’ siphoning of diamond revenues.

The approximately 20,000 people still residing in Marange live a difficult life. Their freedom of movement and association is curtailed, with roadblocks on all access roads and complete militarization through widespread police, army and private security patrols. Their livelihood options have been drastically reduced, as mining concessions occupy the land where they used to crow crops, herd livestock, or fetch water and firewood. They live in constant fear that they or their family members will become victims of the regular assaults, harassment and intimidation that security brigades inflict on locals, including women and children.

These difficult conditions have led many — mainly young men — to look for diamonds in their ancestral land, from which they derive little or no benefit now that it has been awarded to mining companies. With public and private security forces known to use brutal violence, intruders are aware that they’re risking their lives, but they see no other options to make ends meet.

The cruelties have given Zimbabwean diamonds a bad reputation internationally. Various major retailers have banned them from their supply chains, and in 2019, US Customs and Border Protection issued a withhold-release order for Marange diamonds over suspicions of forced labor. This prompted the Zimbabwean government to launch a charm offensive, which culminated most recently in the acceptance of its bid to chair the Kimberley Process (KP) in 2023.

Claims by the government are difficult to verify, as access to Marange is restricted, with civil society and independent observers particularly unwelcome. Yet in the first weeks of 2022, we managed to collect direct testimonies from locals in Marange. These reveal that little has changed there, and human rights violations continue unabated.

Most of the reported violations were committed by private security guards of the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), but also by police and military officers. They have predominantly targeted those looking for diamonds or panning inside and outside the concessions. Their testimonies reveal that the rule of law does not exist in Marange.

Public as well as private security forces play a dubious role, as they both organize illegal syndicates that mine for diamonds and impose brutal punishments on those who do not play by their rules. They severely torture artisanal miners who have not paid protection money. Various miners showed severe injuries inflicted by guards who had beaten or set vicious dogs on them while they were handcuffed. After long sessions of torture, victims said, they were loaded onto trucks and abandoned deep in the forest. The most notorious security guards whose names the miners mentioned were Gumbo, Lewis, Bepete and Matanda, who is now disabled after artisanal miners crushed his leg in a revenge mission.

As this scare campaign is presumably authorized by the highest echelons of power in Zimbabwe, perpetrators enjoy total impunity, while victims have no recourse to a remedy. Spreading even more fear, ZCDC guards, army and police reportedly raid public markets in search of diamonds on occasion. They indiscriminately and extrajudicially arrest locals and take them to detention centers at the so-called Diamond Security Bases, where they must pay a fine or bribe their way out. Those men and women who fail to pay are subjected to forced labor and detained for days in a cramped and mosquito-infested5- by 2-meter cage that only provides partial shade and has no toilet.

Artisanal miners and state security officials interviewed during the investigation estimated that between five and 10 people are either bitten by dogs or tortured every day, while over 30 are rounded up and detained per week across the diamond field. Most cases go unreported and remain undocumented because the miners are afraid of being identified and arrested for trespassing. Those who have suffered injuries do not even seek medical treatment at health facilities, because nurses ask them to produce police reports before staff will attend to them.

Name of victim: Anesu Kaseke (form 4 student)
AGE: 18
Time of occurrence: JANUARY 5, 2022, 2 P.M.
Place of occurrence: Debmar (ZCDC claim)

Brief description:

On January 5, Anesu Kaseke and three other youngsters were searching for diamonds at Debmar, a site within the ZCDC diamond field. While they were working on the pits, two ZCDC security guards pounced on the young artisanal miners, who included two in grade 7 at Chiadzwa Primary (aged 11 and 12 years) and two who were sitting for Ordinary Level examinations at Gandauta Secondary School (aged 17 years) at the time the incident happened. The youngsters tried to run, but only three succeeded in escaping as the guards focused on Kaseke, whom they apprehended and set a dog on. He was bitten on the arm as he tried to fight off the dog. Kaseke identified two of the security guards as Lewis and Bepete. He was later released to nurse the injuries at home.

Name of Victim: Mayford Jani
Age: N/A
Time of occurrence: November 15, 2021, 3 p.m.
Place of occurrence: ZCDC Claim

Brief Description:

On November 15, 2021, Mayford Jani was shot in the leg by a soldier while fetching firewood around the diamond field. He was seriously injured and rushed by friends to Victoria Chitepo Hospital in Mutare, where he was admitted on November 16. This soldier, who had accused Jani of trespassing in the diamond fields, disappeared from Marange when the case was being investigated.

Injuries: Gunshot wounds.

Name of victim: Collen (police officer) and six others
Age: 33
Time of occurrence: December 23, 2021, 2 a.m.
Place of occurrence: Crusher 2 (ZCDC claim)

Brief description:

As a police officer, Collen was deployed to the Marange diamond fields sometime in 2021. In October 2021, his group was recalled and another group from a different station brought into Marange as a replacement. Like many police and military officers deployed in the diamond field, he had established his own syndicate that he was working with. Upon returning to his station, which was further from Marange, he immediately applied for vacation leave. He left his workstation and sneaked back into Marange. On December 23, 2021, Collen and his syndicate of six artisanal miners were apprehended by ZCDC security guards at the Chitubu area within the diamond field. The guards set dogs on them, and five sustained deep injuries on their arms and hands. They never reported the incident to the police or sought treatment from any health facility.

Collen confirmed that state security officials (police officers and soldiers) deployed in the diamond field run numerous syndicates. However, he said, generally, state security officers do not trust the artisanal miners because there is no guarantee that they will always be honest and declare all the diamonds they would have found.

“Each syndicate will have two or three state security officers, and they take turns to accompany artisanal miners. This helps in monitoring and ensuring transparency,” he said. Collen said this was the reason he sneaked back into the diamond field, because he feared that people whom he sponsored might discover a diamond and sell it without informing him.

Asked about the exact instructions they get on deployment as police officers, Collen said their group was never told to beat, torture or harass people within the diamond field: “When we were deployed, we were told to guard the diamond field against trespassers and apprehend all offenders. This is the only instruction. I believe this is the same instruction given to soldiers, except that they do not arrest anyone. However, security officers are human beings. We get tired of the routine of chasing away the same people from these spots; hence, they have resorted to use of force.”

Name of victim: Batsirai Mtetwa and four others
Age: 44
Time of occurrence: December 22, 2021, 2 a.m.
Place of occurrence: Graveyard (ZCDC claim)

Brief description

Batsirai Mtetwa and his four colleagues were caught at the ZCDC diamond mining fields known as “graveyard” by eight ZCDC guards with six dogs. They were working on a pit within the ZCDC claim when the guards arrived. Three of his colleagues managed to run away, leaving two behind. The two who were caught were first beaten and told to roll on thorny shrubs. Mtetwa said that as they were rolling, ZCDC guards released their dogs and ordered them to attack. As a result, he and his colleague were bitten on the hands, arms and legs. After realizing that they were injured and were bleeding, the guards chased them out of the diamond field. The victims did not seek medical help and have been using traditional medicines to treat their wounds.

Name of victim: T. S.
Age: 39
Time of occurrence: December 23, 2021, 6 a.m.
Place of occurrence: Boundary close to Shamirai (ZCDC claim)
Brief description

The victim was found by ZCDC security guards at a place called Shamirai, allegedly looking for a herd of cattle that had been lost the previous day. The place is close to the ZCDC fence. He revealed that he met five security guards who had six dogs, and was asked to produce a letter of permission giving authority to move around the area. T. S. told them that he was a villager and had no need to prove anything. Despite his introducing himself as a villager, the guards beat him. He, however, recognized two guards as Lewis and another one nicknamed “Chief.” T. S. said he asked them why they were beating him, but that only worsened his situation. The two security guards whom he had positively identified immediately set their dogs on him. He sustained cuts on the arms, hands, thighs and legs, and the guards bundled him into their company vehicle and dumped him 23 kilometers away from the scene, at a place in Mutsago, which is outside the protected area. He was treated at Chakohwa clinic and later at a private health facility in Mutare town.

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