Published on 29 Oct 2010 Sections , ,

Zimbabwe 'blood diamond' abuses uncovered

Hope comes from unexpected quarters. For the global diamond industry it comes from Zimbabwe, where massive diamond deposits have been identified in the last few years.

Hope comes from unexpected quarters. For the global diamond industry it comes from Zimbabwe, where massive diamond deposits have been identified in the last few years.

“Zimbabwe will have an impact on everything – on unemployment in the industry, on marketing, on the kind of goods in the market and on prices,” writes Chaim Even-Zohar, of the World Diamond Council.

Only one problem. Despite commitments to the Kimberly Process, the international mechanism established to stop the trade in ‘blood diamonds’ – new evidence shows that the Zimbabwean military and police are still committing human rights abuses against small-scale diamond panners foraging for stones in the Marange diamond fields.

Tonight’s Unreported World contains secretly filming from Chiadzwa, the heart of the diamond-rich area near the border with Mozambique. It shows how diamond panners are used as virtual slave labour, while the proceeds of smuggled diamonds go to the Zimbabwean military and middlemen. President Robert Mugabe’s associates benefit, while the people of Zimbabwe get little or no return.

Next week, representatives of governments, the industry and non-governmental organisations will meet in Jerusalem to discuss the Kimberly Process. They’ll decide whether Zimbabwe has cleaned up its act. Industry and government officials – who just want to get on with mining, trading and selling diamonds – will say they have. The Indian government is particularly keen as one of their companies is poised to buy Zimbabwe’s stock of rough cut diamonds.

China also wants a free hand – a Chinese company called Anjin is establishing itself in the diamond fields, ready for production.

There’s increasing pressure to remove any concerns about human rights from the Kimberly certifying system. l

But the campaign groups whose lobbying first drew world attention to the phenomenom of ‘blood diamonds’ are worried.

“Member governments have a terribly poor record of holding other member governments to account on problem issues, and Zimbabwe – with mass murders by the military in diamond fields – is just one example which shows the Kimberley Process is not credible,” said Charmian Gooch of Global Witness.

The desperate diamond panners whose stories will be on Unreported World tonight may not know about next week’s meeting. But its decisions may be critical for their future.

The full report can be seen on Unreported World, tonight at 7.30pm on Channel 4.