Zimbabwe auctions 300 000 diamond carats from controversial fields

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Security has been heightened today at Harare International Airport with the security operatives out numbering passengers and airport staff. Since Sunday, the road leading to the airport has been under heavy patrol by armed soldiers.

The airport is not under any attack, but rather scheduled to hold a massive auction of diamonds. The first of its kind. About 300 000 diamond carats from the controversial Chiadzwa diamond fields are to be auctioned in a first formal trade of the precious mineral since Government moved in to normalise mining at the minefields.

Mbanda Diamonds Mining, a firm authorized by government to mine diamonds in Chiadzwa is conducting the auction at the newly converted diamond processing facility at the Airport.

Today’s sale would be followed by another one next week.

Prospective buyers from the across the Southern African region and abroad including locals are expected to swam the airport- hence the beefing up of security. “International diamond buyers from as far as the Americas, Europe and Asia have already started arriving for today’s sales, which are expected to run for the next three days,” said Robert Mhlanga, Mbanda’s chairman.

The Zimbabwean government would earn 75 percent of the total sales revenue through a 50 percent weekly dividend, a 10 percent royalty fee, 15 percent taxation and a five percent resource depletion fee.

“In order to ensure maximum security and compliance with the Kimberly
Process, the first consignment of the diamonds on sale were airlifted from Chiadzwa diamond fields under guard from the police”, said Mhlanga.

International community has been extensively lobbying for a ban on Zimbabwe diamonds, claiming human rights abuses. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights claim that about 5,000 people were arrested during the army operation, with three quarters of them showing signs of having been tortured severely.

Also the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which shares the unity government with Zanu-PF, claimed that hundreds of people were buried in mass graves “to hide the regime’s (Zanu-PF) murderous activities,” and that the soldiers sent to ‘guard’ the fields had become illegal diamond dealers

During a visit by Kimberly Process (the regulatory body tasked with ending the global trade in conflict diamonds) last year to investigate the reports of rights abuses, the team met with a key witness, Chief Newman Chiadzwa.

Chiadzwa offered up testimonies and eye witness accounts of beatings, torture and even murders at the hands of the military controlling the diamond fields. He also detailed how he had been arrested and harassed before the Kimberley Process delegation’s visit.

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