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Diamonds: Military ready to cede control

By Patrick Smith in Harare
Posted on Monday, 27 July 2009 00:00

The furore over the military’s control of the Chiadza diamond fields in Marange, eastern Zimbabwe, points to wider tensions over economic and political reforms. MDC supporters had claimed that ZANU-PF’s refusal to give up control of the mines ministry showed that it was using the sector to generate funds for the party and its leaders following its loss of control over the national currency.

The row over the Marange fields appears to have forced ZANU-PF’s hand, and mines minister Obert Mpofu has pledged to withdraw the military from the area and allow companies to operate, with commitments on security. Over 200 people, mainly small-time diamond panners, have been killed by soldiers and militias in Marange, according to a June report from Human Rights Watch. This alleges soldiers used locals as forced labour and arbitrarily killed those who resisted. Its investigation ran parallel with an assessment by the Kimberley Process officials who argued that the rush for diamonds fuelled further conflict. If the diamond sector was properly run, the Kimberley study concludes, it could raise $200m a month. Currently, diamond exports are less than 10% of earnings from the mining sector. Despite the natural riches, any new investor would want guarantees on the politics and commercial terms.

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