Since atrocities in Zimbabwe’s Marange fields were first
brought to light shortly after diamonds were discovered there in 2006,Zimbabwean diamond expert and human rights activist Farai Maguwu has been an
outspoken critic of the illegal mining and abuses that have plagued the country’s
diamond industry. Maguwu is the director of the Center for Research and
Development (CRD), a human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) based in
Mutare, Zimbabwe. In May 2010, he was arrested by local officials on charges of
giving a Kimberley Process (KP) monitor false information regarding the actions
of military officials at the Marange mines — a charge that he wholeheartedly
denied. Maguwu, who was in poor health when he was arrested, was imprisoned for
over a month and denied adequate medical care. The arrest was quickly condemned
by the international community, the KP and a host of human rights
organizations, who pressured Zimbabwe officials to release Maguwu, which they
did in July 2010. All charges against Maguwu were dropped in October of that
year. In November 2011, Maguwu was awarded the Alison Des Forges Award for
Extraordinary Activism by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Maguwu has reported some progress being made with the
proposal of new diamond legislation meant to replace the Precious Stones Trade
Act, which has been regulating Zimbabwe’s diamond trade since 1903. While this new proposed law is
encouraging, Maguwu notes that there are still many problems facing local
communities and miners that need to be addressed.
RAPAPORT MAGAZINE: Please explain your NGO, the Center for Research and
Farai Maguwu: The Center for Research and Development was
formed in 2005 and was registered as a trust. It aims to promote good
governance of natural resources leading to sustainable development, especially
in rural areas. CRD has assisted grassroots rural communities in gold- and
diamond-rich areas of Zimbabwe to register Community Based Organizations (CBO)
for advocacy and develop-mental purposes. Its training programs aim at building
the capacities of communities in resource-rich areas to advocate for
environmental, economic, cultural, civil and political rights.
RM: What prompted you to get involved in human rights issues
FM: We got involved in human rights monitoring in November
2008. This is when the Zimbabwe National Army was deployed into Marange and
committed despicable atrocities against the miners and the community. There was
little information in the public domain concerning these atrocities. We came
across many people who had been severely assaulted and we attended some of the
funerals. Being an organization that was formed to promote human rights and
good governance, we felt a strong moral conviction to intervene and alert the
local population and the international community on the situation in Marange.
RM: What new issues need to be addressed now that the KP has
approved Zimbabwe’s diamonds?
FM: The issues to be addressed are both local and
international. At the local level, the biggest concern is about transparency
and accountability. The government needs to tighten the screws on the mining
companies to ensure that there is no loss of revenue through underhanded deals.
Smuggling of diamonds is no longer associated with artisanal miners, who are
now very few. Rather, some big international dealers have found a way to
smuggle diamonds out of Zimbabwe.
This brings me to the international dimension of the
emerging challenges with regard to Marange diamonds. The government says that
despite the KP approval, it is struggling to sell its diamonds on the formal
market because the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and Minerals
Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) are on U.S. and European Union (EU)
sanctions lists. This poses a double challenge where diamonds are smuggled
officially with no paper trail and also they are undervalued, thereby
undermining the economic interests of Zimbabwe. Rather, it is the dealers who
make the most out of Zimbabwe’s diamonds. Furthermore, economic predators in
Zimbabwe are also taking advantage of the political stalemate on shipments to
smuggle and divert the funds into their own pockets.
RM: How can the diamond situation in Zimbabwe be improved?
FM: The Ministry of Mines has gone through a consultative
phase where it sought public views on the proposed Diamond Bill. The Diamond
Bill should address issues to do with exploration, investor identification,
beneficiation, marketing, harmonization of government ministries and
departments that deal with diamonds, environmental protection and community
rights, among other things. There are significant developments in terms of
infrastructure improvement, compensation of the relocated families and
reduction in violence.
RM: What issues still need to be addressed?
FM: What matters to the common man is that every diamond is
properly accounted for — and this remains a challenge. A lot still needs to be
done to restore public confidence in government’s ability to properly account
for Marange gems. There is need for harmonizationof functions, especially
between the Ministry of Mines and the Ministry of Finance. The two ministries
have consistently clashed over diamond revenues.
We were also concerned that dealers were benefiting at the
expense of the Zimbabwean people. It was critical for consumers to understand
the prevailing conditions at the source where the diamonds were coming from, so
we produced a documentary in 2009, which was broadcast several times on South
African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Channel 3. As we continued to research,
document and expose the abuses, there was an overwhelming local and
international condemnation leading to the intervention of the KP in June 2009.
Though violence has gone down significantly, we keep a close eye on the rights
of the artisanal miners and the local community.