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Western Purchase and Sale of Zimbabwe's Diamonds Funds Internal Repression - NGO

© AP Photo / Tsvangirayi MukwazhiIn this file photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006 gangs of illegal miners dig for diamonds in Marange, eastern Zimbabwe.
In this file photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006 gangs of illegal miners dig for diamonds in Marange, eastern Zimbabwe. - Sputnik International
Powerful military and political elites have secretly exploited Zimbabwe's diamond sector in violation of EU trade sanctions, according to research by a global development NGO.

​Global Witness has scrutinized Zimbabwe's diamond sector since 2011 and the results are published in "An Inside Job" report that examines five of the major mining companies operating in the diamond-rich Marange region of Zimbabwe. 

These companies have concealed their finances and shielded their operations from public scrutiny, hiding significant stakes in them held by Zimbabwe's feared Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), the country's military and even government itself. Global Witness is concerned diamond money is secretly financing institutions responsible for oppressing the Zimbabwean people. 

​Very little of Zimbabwe's diamond wealth has benefited ordinary citizens — since 2010, Zimbabwe has officially exported over US$2.5 billion in diamonds, only around US$300 million of this can clearly be identified in public accounts, says the report. Nearly three quarters of the country's population live beneath the poverty line, and an estimated four million people are in need of food aid.

"A find that offered such promise to the people of Zimbabwe has delivered only disappointment, primarily serving a secretive cabal of vested political and economic interests. There are clear indications of state complicity in the expropriation of these critical resources. Given how opaque and secretive the sector is, what we have uncovered is likely just one symptom of a much wider problem. The people of Zimbabwe deserve to know how much has been made from their diamonds, and where it has gone," said Michael Gibb of Global Witness.

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Mismanagement of the diamond sector has devastating consequences for Zimbabwe's development and democracy — not only have diamonds failed to benefit Zimbabweans, evidence in the report suggests they have funded state machinery consistently implicated in repression.

Key Findings

Documents uncovered by Global Witness suggest the CIO has a leading stake in leading regional firm Kusena Diamonds, which trades its wares in Antwerp and Dubai. Its diamonds circulate freely on international markets, despite the risk they may have funded human rights violations.

​Moreover, Zimbabwe's military entered a partnership with a Chinese investor to establish diamond mining company Anjin Mining — evidence indicates Anjin's diamonds were likely sold in Antwerp in violation of EU sanctions.

Mbada Diamonds holds the largest concession in Marange, yet the owner of a 25 percent stake in the company has remained a secret.

Global Witness has identified documents indicating Robert Mhlanga, a retired member of Zimbabwe's security forces, and a strong ally of the ruling party and the President, is the secret holder.

Diamond Mining Corporation was formed as joint venture by the Government of Zimbabwe with a private investor, despite evidence that the individuals behind the company were involved in extensive smuggling of Zimbabwean diamonds for several years before obtaining a license. 

Turning a Blind Eye

The revelations come as Zimbabwe gears up for elections in 2018, and ruling party Zanu-PF is embroiled in a protracted struggle to find a successor for 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe.

Institutions and agencies named in the report have played significant roles in subverting Zimbabwean democracy and perpetrating serious human rights abuses throughout the country's tumultuous political history. Undisclosed stakes in the country's diamond industry have provided an off-the-books source of funding for their iniquitous activities.

Whether the revelations will cause Western powers to think twice abou

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t the purchase and sale of Zimbabwean diamonds is highly uncertain. In May, Freedom of Information requests revealed UK officials turned a blind eye to the massacre of thousands of dissidents in Zimbabwe in the 1980s to protect the UK's economic and political interests in the country.

In particular, in 1983 Mugabe launched an offensive in Matabeleland, home of the Ndebele ethnic minority and stronghold of political rival Joshua Nkomo. Over the next nine months, the Fifth Brigade of the Zimbabwe National Army tortured and raped tens of thousands of unarmed civilians, and sources have estimated between 10,000 and 20,000 people were killed.

UK officials were aware of the atrocities but one could say more concerned about furthering their economic interests than stopping the slaughter.

"Zimbabwe is important to us primarily because of major British and western economic and strategic interests in southern Africa, and Zimbabwe's pivotal position there. Other important interests are investment and trade… prestige, and the need to avoid a mass white exodus. The behavior of the Fifth Brigade has certainly been brutal but it is [the] impression [of senior UK military officials] they are not out of control," wrote Robin Byatt, British high commissioner in Harare, in a 1983 report.

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