Diamond abuses: CCDT raises alarm

via Diamond abuses: CCDT raises alarm | The Zimbabwean 15.01.14

A shady company reportedly involving senior police and army officers is clandestinely mining diamonds in Marange but claims that it is doing explorations, says a new report from the Chiadzwa Community Development Trust.

The revelation comes as a leading advocacy group has documented fresh human rights abuses at the vast diamond fields in Manicaland. The company named Aver Crow started operating in May 2013 and is allegedly being run by former and current senior individuals in the army and police whose names remain a top secret.

Charity Tambandini, the Public Relations Officer at the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation that works with government to oversee the licensing and operations of miners and holds 50 percent shareholding in the seven other companies already mining in the area, told The Zimbabwean “I am not aware of Aver Crow and would have to check with our business development unit to establish if we have registered a new company in Marange of late,” she said.

A new report by the Chiadzwa Community Development Trust says Aver Crow has set up operations in ward 24 under Chief Murai, where Mapfunde, Murai and Chikuku villages “have been affected by the activities of the company”. Company employees, most of whom have been living in tents since May 2013, reportedly raid a community water source, resulting in the drying up of the borehole. “The employees refused to disclose who they are and what they are doing…(They) refused to shed light on their activities and even lied that they are mining asbestos….The company is carrying out its activities in total secrecy,” said CCDT in its report.

The company employs 30 full time workers and nine locals who crush the diamond-bearing ore with hammers and do not use protective clothing.

They are paid $5 a day for 12-hour stints and do not receive medical support. When injured at work they are denied their wages for the period they are nursing their injuries.

CCDT also alleged that Aver Crow was carting away diamond ore, even though it claimed that it was exploring for the gems. “The secrecy surrounding the company resembles the former De Beers which operated in Marange for more than 20 years without the community knowing what was taking place and what they were doing,” said CCDT.

The advocacy group also said the company had employed at least two diamond sorters at its make shift plant that is guarded by police officers. The sorters are understood to be former employees of the Chinese firm, Anjin, one of the major companies exploiting gems in the area. Meanwhile, the Centre for Research and Development, another rights group, has documented scores of cases of human rights abuses by security personnel as well as the army and police in a report covering July to December 2013. “Responses from company security officials continue to be brutal and heavy handed,” says the report.

Panners who visit the area from across the country have dogs set on them, are assaulted and subjected to illegal corporal punishment as well as other forms of torture such as frog jumping, in addition to unauthorised detentions, according to the pressure group. Security personnel, who usually dump the injured miners after torturing them, have also shot several, says CRD. “Many panners who were shot in Marange are living with bullets in their bodies because they cannot afford medical treatment,” says the report. One of the victims, Given Nyaruvhime, is said to have lived with eight bullets in his body and was successfully operated on in September last year with financial assistance from Counselling Services Unit, a private organisation that caters for people who undergo trauma and physical abuse.

Armed soldiers and police officers on patrol have also harassed and tortured villagers, said CRD, while diamond mine security staff sniff out panners from tunnels by firing teargas into them. Thousands of illegal diamond miners were reportedly murdered and injured in the Marange area several years ago as military and other State security sector personnel deployed in the fields descended on them. While government has refuted the reports, the abuses torched international condemnation, resulting in local diamonds being banned from international markets.