- Southern Africa
- Conflicts - Diamonds
Zimbabwe: Violent diamond rush in Chipinge
Another wave of diamond rush has hit Zimbabwe sparking a fierce battle to control the field site. This time diamonds said to be of high industrial quality have been found at the remote countryside of Chipinge in the eastern part of the country close to Mozambique.
Hundreds of illegal diamond miners including foreigners are flocking to the area.
A diamond rush at the famous Chiadzwa in 2006 led to a spike in criminal activities in the Eastern district of Marange as well as widespread environmental degradation. State security agents subsequently moved in to secure the area and legitimate mining operations have been established.
At the peak of looting in Chiadzwa, Zimbabwe was losing millions of dollars monthly to mineral leakages. This raised an outcry from the international community to ban Zimbabwe diamonds.
The bulk of the diamonds are finding their way to Mozambique’s Manica Province where a ready market is reportedly available. Buyers from Harare have invaded the area, but it is believed that Lebanese citizens are in the forefront.
Panners in Chipinge have built temporary settlements and police sources said a full-scale blitz on them would soon be launched.
Police have been carrying out periodic raids at the sites following reports of violence among the panners.
“The area has become a battlefield and there are reports everyday of miners fighting each other over control of mining claims. We hear that some people have even killed each other there,” Chief Muusha claimed.
He said some of the illegal miners were well equipped with modern mining equipment. “It is surprising that some of these panners have this equipment and we now suspect that they are being sponsored by powerful people.
“More people are getting to know about these diamonds as some even come from distant places, causing a rise in the clashes at the site and more deaths,” he said.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports at the weekend suggests that a secret airstrip is being built in a diamond of Chiadzwa to enable clandestine weapons shipments.
A kilometer long runway is said to be intended for arms shipments, for which troops loyal to President Robert Mugabe would pay on the spot with gemstones from the Chiadzwa diamond mines.
According to human rights groups, hundreds of independent miners were killed when soldiers seized control of the Chiadzwa area in November 2006.
China has long been Zimbabwe’s main source of arms, but delivery has been more difficult since a shipment was blocked in South Africa three years ago. Other deliveries have come in through the Mozambican port of Beira, but government officials in the country’s capital, Maputo, have expressed concern over the issue.