Zimbabwe’s security establishment, the army and police on Friday refused to leave diamond fields where they are accused of human rights abuses. This comes days after they indicated that they would withdraw.
“The officer commanding Manicaland province, Senior Assistant Commissioner Munorwei Shava Mathuthu, said security forces will remain in place to deal with illegal diamond dealers and panners,” said the statement read on state television.
Mines Minister Obert Mpofu “concurred with the security forces”, state television added — although on Sunday the government had said it would conduct a phased withdrawal from Marange.
A team from the Kimberley Process on Wednesday accused the military of being involved in illegal diamond mining in Marange and of perpetrating “horrific” violence against civilians.
The team recommended that Zimbabwe remove the army from Marange by July 20.
The team visited Zimbabwe last week on a fact-finding mission, after Human Rights Watch accused the armed forces of using torture and forced labour to control the Marange fields, saying 200 people had been killed last year.
The report denounced “unacceptable and horrific violence against civilians by authorities in and around Chiadzwa”.
The team visited mine fields in eastern districts last week following allegations of human rights abuses there. “Our team was able to interview and document the stories of tens of victims, observe their wounds, scars from dog bites and batons, tears, and ongoing psychological trauma,” team leader Kpandel Fiya said in the report.
“This has to be acknowledged and it has to stop,” said Fiya, who is Deputy Mines Minister in Liberia, a country whose civil wars were fuelled by so-called “blood diamonds”.
“I was in Liberia throughout the 15 years of civil war, and I have experienced too much senseless violence in my lifetime, especially connected to diamonds,” he said.
Zimbabwe has denied the allegations.
The Kimberley Process was launched in 2003 to stop the flow of conflict diamonds into the mainstream market following wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Zimbabwe has two other diamond mines, Murowa and River Ranch, which are Kimberley certified and are not involved the claims of abuses.