On Hot Seat, Violet Gonda has an exclusive interview with Farai Maguwu, the Director of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), who has been investigating human rights abuses at the Chiadzwa diamond fields. Maguwu was forced into hiding after police raided his office, his house and arrested and assaulted some of his relatives last week. He handed himself in to Mutare police and was immediately arrested. Maguwu accuses the Kimberley Process (KP) monitor to Zimbabwe, Abbey Chikane, of setting him up, as a result of a confidential meeting the two had about the ongoing militarisation of the diamond fields.This is an edited version.
VIOLET GONDA: Explain the chain of events that resulted in you having to go into hiding.
FARAI MAGUWU: I received an email from Abbey Chikane requesting to meet me on his second visit to Zimbabwe and I duly agreed to meet him on Tuesday 25 th of May. I went to meet him at Holiday Inn and to my surprise, there were a lot of suspicious people sitting in the lobby. Others were standing outside. I discussed with him our observation in Marange, especially issues of continuing human rights abuses, illegal panning and smuggling of diamonds without the KP certification. The following day, the government alleged on TV that Chikane’s emails had been intercepted and his itinerary had been ‘drafted by the Americans.’ The following morning, around half past nine, a truckload full of men in suits pitched up at my door, armed to the teeth. As they advanced towards my door, I slipped through the window. I felt like they wanted to do a Ken Saro-Wiwa on me so I went into hiding.
GONDA: Is there any understanding as to why exactly they were (or are) after you?
MAGUWU: They charge that I gave Chikane a State Security document which was drafted by the army and that this was prejudicial to the State.
GONDA: Did you do this?
MAGUWU: I did not. Chikane himself mentioned this document and asked me about its contents. I told him that I had not seen the document hence it was hard for me to comment on something I had not seen. Little did I know that that meeting was a way to set me up so that Chikane could create a story out of it.
GONDA: Are you accusing the Kimberley Process monitor of setting you up? Why would he do this?
MAGUWU: He is now part of the gravy train. There must be something that is going on behind the scenes between Abbey Chikane and ZANU PF officials who are plundering the Marange diamonds. The Centre for Research and Development is a member of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, and this month we were due to travel to Israel to present our findings on Chiadzwa especially matters of human rights abuses, panning and smuggling. This setting up is meant to start a long legal battle that will keep me in the country and paralyse the operations of our organisation.
GONDA: What implications will what you are saying and what you are accusing the KP monitor of have on the KP and its relationship with civic groups in Zimbabwe?
MAGUWU: It’s going to affect the smooth running of the KP given that Zimbabwe is taking centre stage in KP issues since 2008 and now that this monitor had been appointed to try to resolve these issues and work with all the stakeholders in trying to help Zimbabwe to get this certification. The civil society coalition in the KP obviously is very angered by Chikane’s unprofessional behaviour. He may be forced to withdraw or halt his monitoring activities. Another monitor may have to be found who is agreeable to both the Zimbabwe and the KP membership.
GONDA: For the benefit of those people who do not know what your organisation does, can you tell us about it? What were your findings?
MAGUWU: The Centre for Research and Development conducts research and advocacy in the areas of human rights within and around the Marange diamond fields. We look at the issues of panning, smuggling of diamonds and what is happening in the town of Manica across Mozambique with regard to the Zimbabwe diamonds. When I met the monitor, I gave him a report titled “Porous Security at Canadile Zimbabwe.” I also gave him a report of the CRD which was produced in April about the escalation of human rights abuses in Marange where the soldiers were going around beating people at shopping centres.
GONDA: What about this ‘leaked document’ allegedly compiled by an assistant commissioner Mawere? What did he tell you about this document because I hear it also highlights the fact that there’s been no security sector reform under the Global Political Agreement and that JOC is still very much in control in the Chiadzwa area?
MAGUWU: He mentioned issues of certain military bases in the diamond field and asked whether I knew of their existence. He also wanted to know about the syndicates being operated by the army. Our report findings tallied with what was in the document he was holding which he allegedly got from ZANU PF’s office confirming the operations of the JOC. He shook his head in disbelief saying – “I don’t understand how people can deny these things because to me it’s very clear and obvious that the military is still in control of the diamond fields and the areas under the companies are not very secure.” He also complained about the smuggling across the border, which could be traced back to the operations of the military and the syndicates in the diamond fields. So the issues he was raising from that particular document resonated with the reports I handed over to him.
GONDA: Now I was actually going to ask you about those who are benefiting from the diamonds in Chiadzwa. Have you been able to actually gather the names of some of the people who are behind this plunder? Do you know how much Zimbabwe is losing every month from diamond sales, from illegal diamond sales?
MAGUWU: For now it is difficult for me to mention names but all I can say is that the two companies that were formed which are mining in Chiadzwa were illegally licensed to mine there, in that the Minister did not follow the government tender regulations in awarding these licences. Coming to the issue of the losses the government is incurring, we do not have a round figure of the total sum - but on Canadile Mining alone, we noted that about two thousand carats are being lost daily through smuggling and theft by workers who we think have actually overtaken the syndicates and the army in supplying diamonds to buyers.
GONDA: And two thousand carats is roughly how much? Would you know?
MAGUWU: I cannot really give a figure at this moment because we are still making consultations on the exact value of such amount of diamonds.
GONDA: What about the issue of the human rights abuses?
MAGUWU: We have gone to the fields, we have gone to areas surrounding Chiadzwa where the army occasionally goes out to beat people indiscriminately, carry out armed robberies and take women as sex slaves. These abuses should stop. All over the world, there is nowhere where the military is involved in mining. The role of the military is to defend the country from external enemies. A lot of Zimbabweans are jobless. Unemployment rate is standing at about 85 per cent at the moment. We can’t say the government has failed to find people who can work in Marange and produce diamonds for the country. The military has to be replaced by trained security guards.
Marange diamond field stretches for about 70 000 hectares. Of that 70 000 hectares, only about less than ten per cent is under production. As long as all these vast fields are lying idle, the problem of panning will never stop. We will always get this lame excuse that we need the military because we need to protect the diamond field. Why is the area lying idle when the country is singing that we don’t have money and need help from outside?
GONDA: Recently, a parliamentary committee was blocked from going or entering the Chiadzwa area. Have government ministers been able to go there?
MAGUWU: When parliamentarians who have all the legitimacy to debate anything and to go anywhere in the country are being denied access to such a rich national resource, we begin to ask – to whom do these diamonds belong?
GONDA: Thank you Farai Maguwu for speaking to us on the programme Hot Seat.
Courtesy: Hot Seat, A SW Radio Africa Transcript
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