'Marange diamonds source of conflict' stakeholders warn govt

Stakeholders warned the Zimbabwe government that the Marange diamonds could become a source of conflict for the country at a Diamond Conference organized by the Centre for Natural Resources Governance(CNRG) at Holiday Inn in Harare on Friday 23rd November 2012,.

The conference was attended by civil society organisations (CSOs), Deputy Minister of Justice, Honourable Obert Gutu, and MDC-T Member of Parliament for Bulawayo South, Honourable Eddie Cross and members of the Marange-Zimunya community.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Director, Mr. McDonald Lewanika, speaking at the conference warned that the recent emergence of armed militants from the former Mozambican rebel movement, RENAMO, posed a great security threat to the diamond mining activities in the eastern parts of Zimbabwe.

He forecasted that the threat could materialise should RENAMO consider crossing into the Marange diamond fields in a bid to fund their fight against the FRELIMO-led Mozambican government with illegal diamonds.

Recently, it has been reported that the former Mozambican rebel movement, RENAMO, has started arming and military training in preparation for an armed conflict with the Mozambican government which is led by a former Mozambican liberation movement, FRELIMO. RENAMO also known as the "matsanga € has a history of destabilization in both Zimbabwe and Mozambique during the 1980s.

The diamond mines in Marange are close to the Zimbabwean border with Mozambique in the east, and before government took full control of the reportedly 1800 million hectare diamond deposits, it is reported that some of the diamonds were being smuggled into Mozambique by shadowy dealers and  found their way to offshore markets.

Mr. Lewanika warned that:

"In light of the current unstable situation in Mozambique due to armed RENAMO rebels, and considering their 80's history of destabilization in the country, the government of Zimbabwe should be on the alert, and increase security on the border and in respect of the wider area around the Marange diamond mines. €

"This is important to avert a possible diamond conflict. However, this should not justify the militarization of the Marange diamond mining activities, and the lack of transparency which fuels corruption by a few unscrupulous individuals, € Mr. Lewanika added

Mr. Lewanika maintained that the military must not be involved in actual diamond mining as that could also be a source of political instability in Zimbabwe.   He revealed that it was his view that the diamond mines must be guarded by private security companies and owned by the Zimbabwe government instead of the military company, Zimbabwe Defense Industries (ZDI), which owns 40% of Anjin, the biggest mining company in the area.

Mr. Lewanika explained that the involvement of the military elites, through the Zimbabwe Defense Industries (ZDI), could easily become a threat to democracy and free and fair elections in Zimbabwe in the likely event that Zanu-pf loses the forthcoming election in 2013.

"The fact that the military bigwigs who are avowed supporters of Zanu-pf are involved in the diamond mining shows how democracy will be affected by corrupt election coffers. The military are being pampered not to protect, but oppress the people. This poses a great danger if Zanu-pf loses the forthcoming elections, € said Mr. Lewanika.

Mr. Lewanika went on to predict that Zanu-pf might try to use the military to subvert the people's will if the party loses the forthcoming harmonized elections in 2013. He contended it was clear that it is Zanu-pf's grip on the state power which gives them and the military access to the Marange diamonds and in the event of an electoral defeat they might want to retain that power through undemocratic means.

Meanwhile, Mr. Itai Zimunya, a Mutare-based socio-economic researcher of the Zimunya communal lands, who was part of the Marange-Zimunya community members at the conference, also warned that the Marange diamonds could become a source of disharmony inside Zimbabwe.

Mr. Zimunya argued that it was divisional and discourteous of the Zimbabwe government to commission a diamond polishing school in Mashonaland at Mt Hampden, when most of the diamonds to be polished there are being mined in Manicaland.

He said that the marginalisation of the Manicaland province created a disagreeable impression that the people of Manicaland are not important, warning that could spark calls for cession like those which have been made by some political groups in Matabeleland, and equally marginalized groups in other countries.

Mr. Zimunya called on the Zimbabwe government to desist from policies which fuel conflict, and do not promote cohesion among Zimbabweans, especially where natural resources such as diamonds are concerned.

"The issue of diamonds being polished in Mashonaland rather than Marange from where they are actually being airlifted raises divisional ethnic issues. At this rate cession issues will continue to be raised not only from Matabeleland, but even elsewhere like Manicaland. The government must be seen to be promoting cohesion in the country through equitable mining policies, € Mr. Zimunya said.

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