- Southern Africa
- Human rights
Zimbabwean mass grave whistle-blower goes into hiding after police raid
A Zimbabwean chief who helped Kimberley Process team uncover gross human rights abuses in the diamond-rich area last month is in hiding as the he claims that senior Zanu PF members want him dead. In an brief telephone interview this morning Chief Newman Chiadzwa said he left the area after armed soldiers and police stormed his homestead.
”I am lucky because I was not at home when they first raided my home," he said. "I could have been history now” he said.
Chief Chiadzwa said when solders failed to locate him, the security forces told his workers that they had instructions from government to evict the chief immediately because he co-operated with the KP team. The team has since recommended the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for "at least six months".
Liberian deputy mines minister Kpandel Fiya, who led the KP investigation, said villagers recounted tales of "senseless violence" perpetrated by soldiers deployed to curb illegal mining activities last year.
After failing to locate Chief Chiadzwa for some days the security forces seized his two vehicles, a front end loader (TLD) and T-35 truck, he claimed.
"There are mass graves in Chaidzwa. At times people were shot at point blank (range)," said Chief Chiadzwa. "I could not take the (KP) team there because I was prevented from doing so by soldiers." He claimed the mass graves were within the cordoned "security area" and it was virtually impossible for ordinary people to access them.
Global Witness, which campaigns against trade in conflict diamonds, said it "wholly supports the call for Zimbabwe’s full suspension from the Kimberley Process.
"The Marange diamond fields have been the scene of horrific human rights violations, military activity, and rampant smuggling over the past year - all of which has been substantiated by the recent review mission. These activities are entirely incompatible with the values and requirements of the scheme."
Reports say over 200 miners were killed last year and some were buried in mass graves. But the government has denied both the killings and the existence of the mass graves.
Several senior Zanu PF politicians, army and police officers have been linked to syndicates looting the precious stones in the area.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said he could not comment about the relocation of the Chaidzwa people as it was being handled by a government committee. However, he said the police were looking for Chief Chiadzwa in relation to "some criminal charges" he was facing.
"He should not hide behind the issue of relocation. We want him to answer some criminal charges not related to the relocation," said Bvudzijena, who could not specify the charges.