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Blood Diamond: Beatings, Torture and Killings at Marange Fields

In a move similar to the famous biopic, Blood Diamond , the Zimbabwe government decided in October 2008 to deploy the army and other securi...

In a move similar to the famous biopic, Blood Diamond, the Zimbabwe government decided in October 2008 to deploy the army and other security forces — to the Marange diamond fields in a bid to take charge of a situation which was threatening to spin out of control.

While purportedly joining the fray in fighting lawlessness and chaos in the mining fields, which the state initially encouraged and fuelled, and helping out, given police’s inability to control turmoil, the military committed grisly human rights violations, including beatings, torture and extrajudicial killings, as well as forced labour and child labour in Marange.

In a swift and brutal operation, the military seized control of the diamond fields, in the process killing more than 200 people in Chiadzwa, a hitherto remote and peaceful yet impoverished part of Marange, in late October 2008.

“Operation Hakudzokwi” — meaning “No Return” — involved vicious targeting, hunting down of suspects and searching travellers around Mutare, with people found in possession of diamonds or foreign currency being arrested detained, or subjected to humiliation and excruciating experiences.
Marange Diamond Fields 

With the complicity of Zanu PF and government officials, the diamond areas became a zone of lawlessness, killings and impunity, a microcosm of the mayhem and brutality which pervaded Zimbabwe at the height of hyperinflation and the economic meltdown.

Security forces moved in and out of Marange to ensure that they drove out the miners and cleared the path for themselves and later mining companies chosen by the government.

Before the military moved in, the police committed serious human rights abuses – including harassment, beatings, torture and killings — while they also battled for access to the mining fields with the illegal miners.

With the police failing to control the anarchy, the army moved in on October 27 2008 and all hell broke loose after that. Between November 1 and November 12 that year, it was reported that over 100 people were killed and this became part of the overall death toll of over 200.

The scars of the Chiadzwa crackdown are still fresh on some of the victims. In an interview this week, John Gwite, a victim of the campaign, narrated how his brother Tsorosai Kusena died after beatings and torture by soldiers.

Another victim was well-known businessman, Maxwell Mandebvu Mabota, who was badly beaten in Nyanyadzi during the clampdown. He died of multiple organ failure in a South African hospital. Gwite sustained life-threatening injuries which have forced him out of his job as a builder. He says he will never forget the trauma he suffered during the attacks.

“On September 23 2011, we were cleaning our community well. Our village is about a kilometre away from the Mbada concession. We were four together with Tsorosai who was our elder brother. We were using shovels to clear all the mud in the well because in September the wells quickly dry leaving us without water,” he said.

“Mbada security guards, who knew us so well, then approached us and accused us of trying to mine diamonds in their concession when it was clear we were clearing a well. According to a Human Rights Watch report, titled Diamonds in the Rough, released at the time, the violence and brutality was chilling.

“More than 800 soldiers drawn from three army units—Mechanised Brigade and No. 1 Commando Regiment based in Harare and the Kwekwe-based Fifth Brigade—carried out the operation under the overall command of Air Marshal Perence Shiri, commander of the AFZ, and General Constantine Chiwenga, commander of the ZDF,” the report said.

“The first three weeks of the operation were particularly brutal— over the period October 27 to November 16, 2008, the army killed at least 214 miners. The army has also been engaged fully and openly in the smuggling of diamonds, thereby perpetuating the very crime it was deployed to prevent.”

The report also said “five military helicopters with mounted automatic rifles flew over Chiadzwa and began driving out local miners. On the ground, over 800 soldiers were ferried to Chiadzwa in seven large trucks, several smaller trucks, and an army bus. From the helicopters, soldiers indiscriminately fired live ammunition and teargas into the diamond fields and into surrounding villages.”

It added: “According to several villagers who witnessed the operation, soldiers fired their AK-47 assault rifles indiscriminately, without any warning. In the panic that ensued, there was a stampede, and some miners were trapped and died in the structurally unsound and shallow tunnels.

According to witnesses, soldiers searched the bodies of dead miners on the field and took all diamonds and any other valuables they found.” The report also details how Mabota was killed.

“When Mabota arrived, Sigauke and 17 other soldiers accused him of smuggling diamonds and drove him to the diamond fields where they assaulted him using iron rods, booted feet, clenched fists, thick tree branches, and butts of their rifles demanding information on other buyers of diamonds," the report revealed.

“According to a human rights lawyer who interviewed Mabota before he died, the soldiers assaulted Mabota for several hours and stole all of his money and valuables-US$11 000, two mobile phones, and his car-before handing him over to the police, who in turn, took him to a hospital in Mutare. Mabota named Brigadier-General Sigauke as one of the soldiers who tortured him.”

Some diamonds have helped fund devastating civil wars in Africa, destroying the lives of millions. Conflict diamonds are those sold in order to fund armed conflict and civil war. Profits from the trade in conflict diamonds, worth billions of dollars, were used by warlords and rebels to buy arms during the devastating wars in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sierra Leone. Wars that have cost an estimated 3.7 million lives.

While the wars in Angola and Sierra Leone are now over, and fighting in the DRC has decreased, the problem of conflict diamonds hasn't gone away. Diamonds mined in rebel-held areas in Côte d'Ivoire, a West African country in the midst of a volatile conflict, are reaching the international diamond market.

Conflict diamonds from Liberia are also being smuggled into neighboring countries and exported as part of the legitimate diamond trade. - Zim Independent/Online Sources 

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