SA Court To Probe Zim Diamonds

Nicole Fritz, director of the Southern African Litigation Centre which helped prepare the petition, said the documents would show if the diamond wealth is funding President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) party ahead of elections that could come as early as next year.

“There is a widespread belief that the Marange diamonds are funding a Zanu (PF) election war chest-as well as providing Zimbabwe’s old elite with a new source of illicit wealth,” Fritz said in a statement.

Southern Africa Resource Watch along with three Zimbabweans filed the petition in court this week, seeking to force mining firm New Reclamation Group to provide documents on its operations in Marange.

South African law allows citizens to petition for information from private companies if they believe the firm could be violating human rights.

Military seized control

Zimbabwe’s military seized control of the Marange fields in late 2008, forcing out tens of thousands of small-scale miners in a campaign that rights groups say left about 200 dead.

The Kimberley Process against “blood diamonds” documented serious abuses by soldiers against villagers, who were beaten to force them to mine the gems in early 2009.

Zimbabwe contracted New Reclamation to take over diamond operations, and Kimberley in July said abuses at Marange had largely stopped.

“Diamond mining in Marange remains very murky,” said Claude Kabemba, head of Resource Watch.

“Zimbabweans, and particularly those most directly affected, are entitled to know who is benefitting from their mineral wealth.” AFP