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From The Times [UK] Saturday 3rd June 2000

Disbelief at loss of a home and livelihood

AN AIR of disbelief fell on Alamein, a tobacco farm 40 miles south of Harare, as Guy and Vicky Watson-Smith learnt yesterday that the land they had nurtured for almost 20 years is to be forcibly taken over by President Mugabe's Government.

The news hit them as they nervously scrutinised the seven-page list of 804 white commercial farms, published in the pro-government Herald newspaper. There it was, in black and white, farm number 689, and it read: "Notice is hereby given that the President intends to acquire compulsorily the land for resettlement purposes."

Sheltering from the heat under the shade of msasa trees on a manicured lawn, the couple struggled to regain their composure. "It's a blow," Mr Watson-Smith, 50, a native Zimbabwean, said. "But it's not over yet."

He said: "It's difficult to describe how I feel. I'm overcome with despair, disappointment and a great sadness. I'm not the only one. The phones haven't stopped ringing all morning. Some of the farmers have been in tears."

Mrs Watson-Smith, 43, who along with their three children retains British citizenship, said: "You feel so vulnerable. We've lost all sense of security. This is our home, our livelihood, our memories are on this farm. It's our whole life."

She added: "We'll have to tell the children at some point. But we'll have to buffer them from it as much as possible. It isn't going to be easy. How can we possibly repay all our debts if the farm is taken away from us? We'll be ruined."

In addition to trying to bolster the morale of the 700 commercial farmers in the Mashonaland East district, 180 of whom now face the threat of compulsory acquisition, the Watson-Smiths have been caring for Sherry Dunn, whose husband, Alan, was killed in the occupation of some 1,300 white farms by mobs of so-called war veterans.

Mr Watson-Smith, who is chairman of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers' Union for the district, said: "I've put 17 years into this place, the most productive years of my life. If we were forced to pack up and look for something else at my age, well, I don't know if I could do it again."

This is the second time that the potent mix of land and racial conflict has torn the couples' lives apart. "We bought this farm in 1983, having sold our two family farms in Bindura to the Government for resettlement. So we've been through this before," he said.

"In the later stages of the bush war [at independence], all the farms around us had been abandoned. We stayed on for three years. It was a difficult time. There were numerous attempts on my life. Vandalism and malicious damage to our property were a daily occurrence. So eventually we decided to relocate here."

The old family farms in Bindura, north of Harare, are now lying derelict. "They no longer produce anything," he said. "After we left, the main industry was dismantling the buildings and selling the bricks, one by one. And there are hundreds of farms all over the country in the same condition."

Their present holding of 2,000 acres is made up of two farms, Elim and Alamein, which were previously consolidated into one property. Elim is completely unfertile. The swampland is incapable of growing any crop known to man. Its coarse stringy grass is barely able to sustain the giraffe, kudu, impala and zebra that the couple breed for Zimbabwe's game ranches.

But it is where Mr Watson-Smith built a 660,000 reservoir, fed by pumps from the nearby Mupfure river, to sustain Alamein farm, which produces 1.1 million pounds of prime tobacco every year and keeps nearly 300 farmworkers in employment. The Government wants to acquire Elim farm; but without the reservoir, Alamein becomes economically unviable.

"It's difficult to know why they want Elim farm," Mr Watson-Smith said. "By itself, it is worthless. The whole land acquisition process has been turned into a political issue. White farmers have long recognised the need for land reform. But the land and the race cards are being played as a vote-buying exercise." Zimbabwe holds parliamentary elections later this month.

Mr Watson-Smith said: "We have been softened up during the past three months for this. We are in a corner and on our knees. This punch is going to be enough to put many farmers on the mat. There are a lot of farmers out there who will say that they just can't take any more. I have to put my feelings to one side and tell them that you can."
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From The Times [UK] Saturday 3rd June 2000

Ian Smith farm among 804 in Mugabe grab

PRESIDENT MUGABE signalled the start of a mass land grab yesterday of white-owned farms, issuing a list of 804 properties whose owners read like the Who's Who of the old African establishment.

Former Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith, the Oppenheimers, a powerful South African gold-mining family and British multinational, Lonrho, are among those named to lose their land. The farm where Doris Lessing, the novelist, grew up is also listed.

Mr Mugabe's Government said it would move thousands of black Zimbabweans on to their farms in the next few weeks. The list has prompted fears of a flood of new farm invasions, dozens of which have already been abandoned under the weight of the ruling Zanu (PF) party's campaign of violence and intimidation over the past three months.

The list covers 5 million acres of land, much of it described as unsuitable for resettlement, such Mr Smith's ranch at Gwenoro North: 6,100 acres of rolling pastoral land in the Shurungwi district 150 miles southwest of Harare.

Lonrho, the British multinational, is due to lose at least two ranching properties and Kermanshah, the farm where Lessing grew up and where her father cleared 1,700 acres of bush, is also listed. Nine black farmers are to be deprived of land, and the Salvation Army is to lose a mission.

The Oppenheimers have ten large ranches on the list. However, they agreed to sell them to the Government in its first, abortive, attempt at a mass seizure in late 1997. The Government then listed 1,471 properties, but later exempted 512 as "unsuitable", while another 118 were offered for sale. The remaining 841 were due to be taken over. Nearly all those farms have been relisted.

Since February five white farmers have been murdered. "Our biggest fear is that there will be an influx on to the farms, that people will just go shopping for land," said Colin Cloete, vice-president of the Commercial Farmers' Union.Farmers' associations have drawn up contingency plans in case listed farmers get swamped, he said. Several farmers said they were packing precious possessions for easy removal and locking away other property that they could not remove quickly.

The law gives the farmers 30 days to lodge objections. Mr Cloete said that any attempt to move people on before the full legal process had expired would be "unconstitutional". However, Mr Mugabe is in a hurry to fulfil promises to resettle people on white farms before parliamentary elections on June 24-25, and it appears certain that the law will be ignored.

A recent edict from Mr Mugabe said farmers would not be paid for their land, because it had been "stolen" by whites. Compensation for improvements, like dams, buildings and fences, has to be paid, but it can be made in government bonds, which economists say will be worthless because the Government is broke.
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From The Times [UK]

Mugabe gem sales link to poll observer


THE Commonwealth's credibility was thrown into doubt yesterday when it emerged that a senior adviser on African affairs has close personal and business links with the Mugabe regime.

As the authorities in Harare announced the confiscation of more than 800 white-owned farms, the Commonwealth faced serious allegations of a conflict of interest as it prepared to monitor elections, scheduled for June 24-25.

At the centre of the row is Moses Anafu, a member of the observer team in Zimbabwe and the senior adviser on Africa to Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth Secretary General.

As well as playing a key role in judging whether Zimbabwe's elections are free and fair, he has also emerged as the non-executive director of a company that plans to sell diamonds on behalf of the Mugabe regime and its ally, President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mr Anafu, a veteran diplomat who has worked throughout Africa on behalf of the Commonwealth, was not avaible for comment. The Commonwealth confirmed that it knew of his directorship but insisted that he had not received any money. There is no suggestion that Mr Anafu has done anything illegal and another proposed non-executive director is Frances Cook, a former US Ambassador to Oman.

Nevertheless the revelation was expected to cause a furore at Marlborough House, the Commonwealth headquarters, and at the Foreign Office, which has become Mr Mugabe's most vocal critic and which is fighting the sale of so-called "blood diamonds" from Africa's war zones.

"It is totally outrageous that a senior figure in the Commonwealth has such close contacts to Mugabe's regime," a Whitehall source said yesterday. "Don McKinnon should resign over this."

Oryx Diamonds Ltd, the company that has the concession to sell diamonds from the Congo in areas under Zimbabwean military control, is scheduled to be listed on London's Alternative Investment Market on June 13.

However, last night The Times was told by sources in the City that the company was the subject of inquiries by the London Stock Exchange and the Financial Services Authority and that its future listing was far from certain.

Foreign Office sources said Britain was opposed to the sale of diamonds from African war zones, such as Sierra Leone, Angola and the Congo, where profits were used to further the conflict. "We would like to see an end to the sale of these diamonds on the world's market and particularly if the trade is being conducted in London," one diplomat said. Britain is hoping to draw up a global agreement to halt the sale as early as this summer at the G8 summit of major industrial countries in July.

Profits from the export of diamonds from the Congo are believed to go directly to the ruling elite in Zimbabwe, including Mr Mugabe.
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From The Times [UK]
Leading Article


Zimbabwe's electorate is being ruthlessly terrorised The economic folly of President Mugabe's decision to expropriate no fewer than 804 of Zimbabwe's white-owned commercial farms is matched only by its political dishonesty. None of his justifications hold water. He says that the land could be better used. Yet he has seized some of the most profitable enterprises in the country. Splitting them up into subsistence plots is likely to be ruinously uneconomic. He promises that redistribution will give poor black Zimbabweans the opportunity to own land. But many farms previously expropriated are now in the hands of his political cronies. Britain donated 44 million to help that flawed process.

The laws permitting this latest land redistribution were rushed through the parliament just before it was dissolved for the coming general election on 24 and 25 June. These two events are not unrelated. Elections can be won by fair means or foul. In this respect, the illegal occupation of more than a thousand farms by Mr Mugabe's Zanu (PF) supporters may succeed in its aim. Murder and violence has intimidated farm-owners into promising not to allow the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to campaign among their employees. With over two million workers and their families living on the farms, this greatly hinders the ability of the Opposition to get its message across. Where they have made a stand, MDC supporters are subject to assault and mob violence. Having selected its 120 candidates, the MDC is too fearful to make public their identities.

London's softly-softly approach has played into Mr Mugabe's hands. Consequently, international monitors from the Commonwealth and the EU will arrive to witness elections that have been irremediably rigged long before their planes touch down. Having spent much of this year in Zimbabwe, a US-supported team has already concluded that there is no likelihood of a free and fair contest. The only thing that can be said for the electoral roll in use is that it supports Edmund Burke's definition of society as a contract between the dead, the living and the yet unborn.

After 20 years of Zanu (PF) rule, half the population is unemployed and the country is bankrupt. There is no longer enough money to provide specialist medical care; if South Africa turned off the tap, there would be almost no fuel. Strangely, though, Mr Mugabe has "found" money to buy $72 million worth of Chinese hand grenades and shoulder-fired rocket launchers and to invade the Democratic Republic of Congo - an intervention motivated not by justice, but by greed for plunder. In Mr Mugabe's Zimbabwe, power corrupts; the prospect of losing it corrupts absolutely.
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HARARE, June 2 (AFP) - The cash-strapped Zimbabwe government has ordered millions of dollars worth of military hardware from its former independence war ally, China, an independent business weekly reported Friday.

The deal was clinched by Defence Minister Moven Mahachi and authorised by President Robert Mugabe, said the Zimbabwe Independent, which quoted government documents.

Citing government sources, the weekly said the cabinet decided earlier this year to channel 65.9 million US dollars into buying hardware from arms manufacturer China North Industries Corporation.

The paper said the government, at the helm of its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1980, had paid a deposit on the order and that the shipment of arms -- which include rocket shells and grenades -- was due to take place within three months of concluding the deal.

The paper, quoting the official documents, revealed that payments to the Chinese arms manufacturer would be initiated by a six million US dollar down-payment.

"The payment is in respect of a five percent down-payment for the purchase of the military goods by the ZNA (Zimbabwe National Army)," the paper quoted one document as saying.

When approached for comment by the paper, defence spokesman Colonel Chancellor Diye denied the government had ordered the equipment but stated: "As any military force the ZNA has obligations to bolster it equipment holdings by new acquisitions in order to fulfil its designated roles."

The ministry of defence could not provide any further information to AFP when contacted Friday.

The newspaper said the government, by its own figures, was spending three million US dollars a month on financing its 11,000 troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where they are supporting President Laurent Kabila's army against rebels, but that independent estimates put the figure at a million US dollars a day.

On Thursday, the Financial Gazette, an independent weekly, said some 5,000 of the soldiers should return home by the end of June as part of a phased withdrawal ahead of the deployment of UN peace observers in the DRC.
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UNITED NATIONS, June 2 (AFP) - United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan on Friday called off a visit to Zimbabwe by a top UN official after the government there said it would seize 804 white-owned farms without compensation.

The Administrator of the UN Development Programme, Mark Malloch-Brown, had been due to visit Zimbabwe this weekend to reactivate a two-year-old UNDP-sponsored land reform programme in the hope of ending the crisis over land ownership.

Earlier Friday, the government in Harare published a list of 804 white-owned farms to be seized without compensation for landless members of the black majority.

A statement in the official gazette said land owners had one month to challenge the confiscation orders.

In a statement through his spokesman, Annan said the decision "undermines the ability of UNDP to build international support, including resources, for a

legally based solution, including compensation." On May 18, Mark Malloch-Brown told a news conference that he hoped to encourage international donors to provide funds for Zimbabwe to compensate white farmers.

But, he said, "nobody's going to write a blank cheque," and donors needed to be assured that Zimbabwe was committed to a "transparent, fair and legally enforceable process."

In his statement, Annan said Malloch-Brown's visit had been postponed.

He said "we will need carefully to review" the consequences of the Zimbabwean government's decision before rescheduling it.

The UNDP programme envisaged the transfer over five years of five million hectares (12.3 million acres) of land to resettle 150,000 families.

According to UNDP data, 4,460 large-scale commercial farmers in Zimbabwe currently hold 11.2 million hectares (27.7 million acres) while more than six million people, mostly in communal areas, occupy 16.4 million hectares (40.5 million acres).

The statement said Annan "remains convinced that the issue of land acquisition, redistribution and resettlement will not be resolved without good faith efforts by all parties to achieve a mutually agreed way forward."

He said that "achieving a just and equitable solution is critical for the economic prosperity and stability of Zimbabwe and the region".

Annan said that the UNDP would continue to seek a solution to the crisis.

He thanked South African President Thabo Mbeki for his support of the UN's efforts.

Mbeki discussed the crisis in Zimbabwe with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London on May 18.

He had earlier called on Britain to release a promised 36 million pounds (54 million dollars) to finance land reform in Zimbabwe.

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ZIMBABWE'S demoralised white farmers faced the prospect of ruin yesterday as President Robert Mugabe released a list of 804 farms for immediate acquisition.

Bad news: farmer Owen Connor reads the list of farms to be seized His threats to seize white land - a constant feature of his 20-year rule - have now become a reality. Mr Mugabe has amended the constitution to strip farmers of their right to full compensation. While payments will be made for roads or buildings on the farms, nothing will be given for the land.

Farmers fear that properties on the list, published by The Herald, the official daily, will be flooded with thousands of squatters this weekend. Most have already been affected by the wave of land invasions and are bracing themselves for a new influx as the anarchic and disorderly resettlement of landless blacks takes place. An economist said it meant "complete ruin" for Zimbabwe's faltering economy.

Among the losers are Ian Smith, the last prime minister of white Rhodesia, whose Gwenoro cattle ranch is listed, and Tim Henwood, the president of the Commercial Farmers' Union. About 5.2 million acres will be seized, almost 20 per cent of all the white-owned land.

Jim Sinclair, a former president of the CFU whose farm is listed, said: "I never thought it would come to this, never in my worst nightmare. It will rip the heart out of the agricultural industry. I'm bewildered by the whole affair." Mr Mugabe has promised that resettlement of the land will begin "immediately".

Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi, leader of the war veterans' association and a prime mover behind the land invasions, declared last week that land would be handed out "first come, first served". These remarks threaten a chaotic scramble as tens of thousands of people swarm on to the listed farms.

Mr Sinclair fears that a disorganised rush for land is almost inevitable and warns of the damage that would result. He said: "I can't believe the government actually want that. But if they don't, they're going to have to start thinking in a sane manner and there's not much sanity around at the moment."

In response to the announcement of the seizures, the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, called off a visit to Zimbabwe by the administrator of the UN Development Programme, Mark Malloch-Brown. Mr Malloch-Brown had been due to visit this weekend to reactivate a two-year-old, UN-sponsored land reform programme in the hope of ending the crisis over land ownership.

Last month he said that he hoped to encourage international donors to provide funds for Zimbabwe to compensate white farmers. But he said: "Nobody's going to write a blank cheque." Donors needed to be assured that Zimbabwe was committed to a "transparent, fair and legally enforceable process".

But, facing a parliamentary election in three weeks' time, Mr Mugabe is desperate for resettlement to begin as quickly as possible. He is dangling white-owned land as the main incentive for Zimbabweans to vote for his Zanu-PF party, which faces the toughest opposition challenge of its 20-year rule. About 120,000 people work on the listed farms and their fate is uncertain.

Mr Sinclair has 75 black families living on his property and provides them with a school and health care. He said: "I have no idea what would happen to them." Black farm workers are regarded with deep suspicion by Mr Mugabe's government because of their alleged sympathy for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Thousands could be dispossessed and left destitute.

Banks are owed an estimated 200 million by farmers on the list and must now prepare to write off bad debts. Agriculture is the backbone of Zimbabwe's economy and the impact of mass seizures will spread into every sector. John Robertson, an independent economist, said: "If someone came up with the very best way to ruin an economy, this would be it. It's a disastrous business, it's so incredibly self-destructive."

Mr Robertson pointed out that land would be given to whoever grabs it first, on condition that they were loyal supports of Zanu-PF. He said: "They will not be getting it for their agricultural skills and all they have to do to keep the land is stay loyal and subservient. The result will be a massive downturn in production."

Mr Mugabe has chosen to proceed with the fastest, cheapest and most chaotic model of resettlement. Another 37 farms are expected to be listed on Monday. The total of 841 contribute more than 100 million to Zimbabwe's economy. One farmer said: "All that will now be ruined. This is an historic day - Mugabe has finally achieved his goal and I fear the result will be another object lesson in how to ruin a country in three easy steps."
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Mugabe land seizures force hundreds of farm owners to flee

Zimbabwe: special report
Andrew Meldrum in Harare
Saturday June 3, 2000

Hundreds of Zimbabwe's white farmers prepared to leave their land yesterday following Robert Mugabe's announcement of the seizure of 804 mostly white-owned farms for the resettlement of poor black farmers.

"I don't know how to even begin leaving my farm," said Jim Sinclair, a white farmer faced with eviction by early next month. "I had reckoned it would take five months to wind up the farm, not a few weeks."

He said he feared an increase in lawlessness. "This gives carte blanche to anybody who wants to move onto the farms. Some of them are armed."

Five white farmers have been killed since Mr Mugabe's supporters began invading farms three months ago.

In 1980, as president of the Commercial Farmers Union, he encouraged white farmers to continue under majority rule. Now Mr Sinclair sees little hope for Zimbabwe's large-scale farming. "This will tear the heart out of commercial agriculture," he said. "It's the beginning of the end of the economy of this country."

Other farming families have begun packing up valuables in fear that their property will be invaded immediately.

"Our biggest fear is that there will be an influx onto the farms by people who are just going to go shopping for land, livestock and equipment," said Colin Cloete, a CFU official. The group is setting up a programme to help farmers relocate their families, protect farm workers, move household goods and livestock.

An extraordinary government gazette was published yesterday announcing the confiscations. Some of the farms involved are owned by black Africans, most of whom are critics of Mr Mugabe.

Mr Mugabe's action will enable his government to take possession of farms covering nearly 2m hectares (5m acres), by the time of the election on June 24 and 25.

"The president has called for a fast-track kind of resettlement with no elaborate infrastructure," said Vincent Kwenda, the director of land resettlement. But critics claim that without redevelopment only subsistence farming will be possible on seized land.

People will be moved onto the farms by the end of June, despite the fact that the farm owners have 30 days to lodge legal objections to the confiscations. The new land legislation, written by Mr Mugabe and enacted last week, gives farmers few grounds to contest the seizures.

Far from praising Mr Mugabe's move, many black Zimbabweans are dismissing it as an election ploy that will be disastrous for the country's long-term stability.

"It is an election gimmick which will result in environmental damage and will speed up our economic decline," said John Makumbe, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.

"The people will not get adequate infrastructure, financial support or training to cultivate the land productively. It is unfortunate that Mugabe is so scared of losing power that he will damage the environment and the economy just to stay in office."

The new legislation states that Britain is obliged to pay for the land seized from the African people during the colonial period. If Britain does not pay, states the law, then the Zimbabwe government is authorised to seize the land without paying compensation.

The British government had earmarked 37m for much-needed land reform in Zimbabwe, but Mr Mugabe's current land grab will not qualify for the funds.

"Land reform in Zimbabwe can only really succeed if it is transparent and legal," said the British high commissioner, Peter Longworth, yesterday.

"We have always said we are prepared to participate in such a plan. We are aware, as are many others, that well managed land reform is an important factor for social stability."

Other international donors are expected to shun Mr Mugabe's hurried land expropriations. Officials from the United Nations Development Programme and the president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, have attempted in recent days to broker a compromise deal to raise international funds to pay for the white-owned farms. But Mr Mugabe rejected the imposition of any conditions on how the land reform should be carried out.

The economic effects of Mr Mugabe's hasty land resettlement are expected to be disastrous. The properties confiscated comprise nearly a quarter of the country's large-scale farms. Zimbabwe's commercial farming sector provides 40% of the country's export earnings and is the largest single employer, supporting 2m.

The seizures could also trigger a failure of Zimbabwe's commercial banks which have lent more than 431m to the farming sector.

The Foreign Office minister, Peter Hain, last night described a visit to Zimbabwe today by the shadow foreign secretary, Francis Maude, as "irresponsible" given the country's present volatility.
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Riot police outnumber supporters at opposition rally

HARARE, June 3 (AFP) - Riot police initially outnumbered participants at an opposition rally in the centre of Harare Saturday which the organisers later moved to a working class suburb, saying the buses carrying their supporters had been blocked from coming into town.

By that time the mostly young crowd of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters had swollen to around 100.

They danced and chanted songs in support of their party and its president, fiery trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai, for more than an hour before moving on to the southern suburb of Highfield.

Small groups of riot police stood by at virtually every street corner in the vicinity of the meeting in the centre.

An MDC spokesman who did not give his name said the meeting had been organised to articulate their "chief grievance" -- a complaint over the voters' roll -- which he said did not genuinely reflect the country's electorate.

He said the meeting was intended to "rejuvenate enthusiasm among the youth" and get them to vote in parliamentary elections scheduled for June 24-25.

"(Tobaiwa) Mudede is hoping most of the young people won't vote," said the spokesman, referring to the registrar-general, whose office is regularly criticised by opponents of the ruling party for being partisan towards President Robert Mugabe's government.
Zimbabweans can vote from the age of 18.
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JOHANNESBURG, June 3 (AFP) - South Africa's prominent Oppenheimer family will fight back if the Zimbabwe government tried to seize its farm for redistribution to landless blacks, a family spokesman warned Saturday.
The Oppenheimer farm was one of the 804 white-owned farms listed in Zimbabwe's government gazette Friday for seizure without compensation and distribution to landless members of the black majority, the SAPA news agency reported.

Oppenheimer family spokesman Clifford Elphick told SAPA that the family had not been officially informed by Harare that their farm would be seized as part of the redistribution plan.
They were trying to confirm media reports to this effect, he said.
If the farm were repossessed, Elphick said the Oppenheimer family planned "to pursue every action in their power, meaning taking legal action and consulting their attorney."

The government gazette said that land owners who wanted to challenge the confiscation orders would have until July 2 to launch a written complaint with the farming ministry.

The Oppenheimers built their wealth on South Africa's gold and diamond mining industries. Sir Ernest Oppenheimer started the world gold mining giant Anglo American in 1917.
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