RAPAPORT… The two companies awarded contracts to mine the controversial Marange fields in Zimbabwe, Canadile and New Reclamation Group, are controlled by the country’s top military personnel, a report in Britain’s Sunday Times revealed. At the Kimberley Process (KP) plenary meeting in November, Zimbabwe announced that it had recruited foreign investors to work the mine there, successfully convincing the enforcers of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) that it has complied adequately enough to receive a second chance as a KP member.
Following a KP review conducted last June, which reported serious human rights abuses in the area, including the murder and rape of local diggers by military forces, Zimbabwe’s participation in the KPCS was called into question. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that around 200 people were gunned down by the military in late 2008 and that the abuses have continued, with some occurring as late as October 2009. As part of its KP work plan, Zimbabwe agreed to demilitarize the Marange fields and bring in private security companies to secure the area.
However, according to the Times, both of the companies contracted to mine the Marange are run by military chiefs who have positioned themselves there to profit from the mine and with it, to win a claim to political power. The report noted that the Marange contracts were awarded by mines minister Obert Mpofu, who is identified on U.S. and European Union (EU) sanctions lists as an undesirable Zimbabwean figure. Mpofu has admitted to being in business with the defense force chief, General Constantine Chiwenga, as well as to being protected by him.
The contracts were also reportedly granted without the knowledge of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai, who shares power with Mugabe, despite a recent Harare High Court ruling that confirmed that the fields are owned by the British-registered mining company African Consolidated Resources (ACR).
The two companies are alleged to already be operating on the ACR claims, with Canadile mining the southern area and New Reclamation, a South African scrap metals dealer, working the northern section. While the country is reportedly recruiting investors for the remaining three Marange claims, ACR’s chief executive officer (CEO), Andrew Cranswick, recently explained to Rapaport News that its 1,800-hectare claim area, where Canadile and New Reclamation are operating, constitutes the richest part of the Marange fields.
Among the directors of Canadile, the Times indicated, is Lovemore Kurotwe, who commanded a battalion that massacred civilians at Entumbane near Bulawayo in the Matabeleland massacres, shortly after Mugabe came to power in the wake of Zimbabwe obtaining independence as a nation. Kurotwe is the nephew of the late General Vitalis Zvinavashe, the member of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front’s (ZANU-PF) political elite who the UN identified as one of the main figures to profit from the plunder of diamond fields in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Kurotwe also reportedly has an Israeli foreign partner who has been in jail in Angola for smuggling.
The report indicates there are deeper connections between the Zimbabwean government and New Reclamation through Robert Mhlanga, a key Zimbabwean figure in the syndicate. Mhlanga was Zimbabwe’s first black helicopter pilot and worked as a courier for Mugabe’s late first wife, Sally. Mhlanga is said to have made a fortune through various projects in Africa and was active in the DRC’s diamond trade when Zimbabwean troops fought there. He was also a key witness in an attempt to frame then-opposition leader Tsvangirai for treason in 2003, testifying that he had contact with an Israeli spy who claimed he was hired by Tsvangarai to kill Mugabe. In addition, Mhlanga enjoys freedom of the skies both inside and outside Zimbabwe, bypassing the need to pass through the usual customs controls.
The Times further disclosed plans to convert the old Harare domestic air terminal into a diamond-cutting center, which Mhlanga is involved in. This would enable Zimbabwe to avoid having its rough exports held up by the KP monitor recently appointed to check all diamonds exported from Marange.
The KP, which monitors the global trade of all rough diamonds to ensure they don’t include conflict diamonds, and Zimbabwe have adopted a 12-step working plan to ensure that the Marange is fully compliant with KPCS standards.
See the full Times article here.