Initiating the discourse was Farai Maguwu, a long time civil society activist, who is also the founding Director of the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), a leading organization working on improved governance of natural resources in Zimbabwe, who over the years has done extensive research and documentation on human rights abuses and illicit trade in diamonds in Zimbabwe. In 2011 he was arrested and detained for 40 days by the Zimbabwean government and later that year Human Rights Watch honored him with the prestigious Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism.
Writing in the August edition of Rapaport Magazine, Maguwu noted the generally agreed claim is that the KP has reduced conflict diamonds to less than 1 percent of all diamonds in the global supply chains. “To consumers, all diamonds reaching their cities are conflict free,” he stated. But, he alleges, among the diamonds cleared by the KP as conflict-free are Zimbabwe’s Marange diamonds which are mined in areas where abuses by both state and private run security forces are common.
Maguwu’s article was repeated on the Rapaport website, and he further expounded his argument in a video message during a seminar conducted by Rapaport during the Las Vegas show.
THE PLIGHT OF ARTISANAL MINERS IN ZIMBABWE
Maguwu focused his attention on Marange, an alluvial diamond mining area located in the east of the country. In 2007, he noted, the Zimbabwean government, which was then led by Robert Mugabe, placed the area under the Protected Places and Areas Act, which allows the deployment the army to the region “in the interests of defense, public safety or public order.”
Hundreds of officers from the army, police and Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) were sent into Marage, and its officer granted permission to detain and search any person entering, seeking to enter or simoply being in the area.
“Security agents in Marange regularly force their way into people’s homes by breaking doors and windows, abducting occupants to a detention center in the community, where they pay a ransom disguised as a fine,” he wrote. “They do not produce any search warrants before forcing their way into people’s homes.
“The diamond mining area itself is fenced,” Maguwu wrote. “However, artisanal miners, driven by unemployment and poverty, break into the fenced area at night to mine. Often, this is done after paying an ‘escort fee’” to the mining companies’ private security guards or the state security agents. Further, artisanal miners have frequently discovered new diamond deposits outside the companies’ premises. As soon as there is evidence of mining activity, the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) deploys its security to violently displace the artisanal miners and take over the area.”
Zimabwean civil society activist Farai Maguwu: Diamonds cleared by the KP as conflict-free include goods from Zimbabwe’s Marange region, where abuses by both state and private run security forces are common
If captured, artisanal miners who enter the diamond mining area without paying an escort fee are subjected torture, Maguwu stated. They are, then loaded onto ZCDC trucks, driven 40 to 50 kilometers deep into the forest where there are no human settlements, and dumped there.
World Diamond Council President Edward Asscher: The mission of the Kimberley Process Certification scheme must be broadened by expanding the ‘conflict diamond’ definition, so that it is provided the authority to address all instances of systemic violence related to rough diamonds.”
INDUSTRY MUST TAKE THE INITIATIVE, SAYS WDC PRESIDENT
Writing in a blog posted on the World Diamond Council website, the organization’s president, Edward Asscher paid tribute to Maguwu, who described as courageous. WDC greatly respects the selfless efforts Maguwu has invested on behalf of Zimababwe’s artisanal miners, “often at great risk to himself,” Asscher stated.
Stating that he has no issue with the charges being made by Maguwu, Asscher said that one must be realistic about the ability of the Kimberley Process to deal with all types of systemic violence.
Over the past 19 years, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme has been successful in eliminating almost entirely the trade in rough diamonds being used to finance civil war. But, he wrote, it should be noted that, according to the KP’s Core Document, “conflict diamonds” are only rough goods used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments. “[S]ince there is no civil war in Zimbabwe today, by definition no conflict diamonds are being produced in the country.
The KPCS is unfortunately limited in its scope, Assher said. “Unless that is expanded, it cannot be expected to be a panacea to other challenges afflicting artisanal miners, including human and labor rights violations, bribery and corruption.”
“WDC’s long-held position is that KPCS’s mission must be broadened so that it can address the type of challenges that Mr. Maguwu describes,” he wrote. “This should be done by expanding the ‘conflict diamond’ definition, so that it is provided the authority to address all instances of systemic violence related to rough diamonds.”
Asscher does not suggest that the diamond industry wait for the participant government in the KP to enact the necessary changes. “This the industry must achieve by doing due diligence,” he noted.
“It is why WDC has updated its System of Warranties, by which the seller of any rough diamond, polished diamond and diamond set in jewelry declares on the transaction document that the merchandise is KP compliant, and also complies with universal principals of human rights, labor rights, anti-corruption and anti-money laundering. It also is why we encourage participants in our supply chain to implement third-party verified codes of best practices, like that developed by the Responsible Jewellery Council and certain mining companies.”
“Through this coordinated effort, as well as through broadening the scope of the KPCS, I believe we have the capacity to address the types of issues that Mr. Maguwu mentions. For the people any nation where our product is recovered, processed and sold, the diamond should be a resource for sustainable development and a symbol of hope for future generations,” the WDC President continued.