Archive for January, 2010
by Admin on January 11th, 2010
Manica’s potholed dirt roads are a challenge but thanks to a steady stream of illicit diamonds from neighboring Zimbabwe, more and more people in this impoverished town of western Mozambique can afford one. It is a new frontier energized by diamonds.
“The diamonds enter Mozambique in an obscure and clandestine way. Nobody in Manica is permitted to [buy or sell] them because we do not have this mineral,” Jose Tefula, the administrator of the Manica district.
The diamonds are believed to come from the vast Chiadzwa diamond fields in the eastern province of Manicaland, about 56 miles (90 kilometers) southwest of Zimbabwe’s eastern city of Mutare, not far from the border. Traders use “mules,” who often ingest the stones, to smuggle the diamonds into Mozambique, Tefula said.
According to Alberto Limeme, head of the border patrol at Machipanda, the main border post between Mozambique and Zimbabwe,”The diamonds cannot cross the border without proper certification, but we don’t have enough personnel for adequate control.”
Stones worth hundreds of thousands of dollars are allegedly being smuggled in every month. In December 2009, authorities seized more than 500 grams of diamonds from a single smuggler.
A recent joint operation by the Mozambican Migration Services and Border Patrol to stem the flow had not managed to contain the illegal traffic of the precious stones, Limeme admitted.
Limeme said the Zimbabwean authorities had long been aware of the illegal diamond pipeline, but “as long as the Zimbabweans do not clamp down on the illegal trafficking, it will be very difficult for us to restrain the entrance of the diamonds.”
Hundreds of thousands of artisanal miners have swarmed into the Chiadzwa region and in late 2008, Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, sent troops to flush them out after repeated attempts by the police to establish control failed.
A June 2009 report by the international watchdog, Human Rights Watch (HRW), accused Zimbabwean security forces of killing more than 200 miners in 2008 — an allegation denied by Mugabe’s government — and recommended that Zimbabwe be suspended from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), which polices the diamond trade. The fields are now controlled by the military and villagers are allegedly forced by soldiers to dig for stones for the benefit of senior government officials or military commanders.
A 2009 report, “Zimbabwe, Diamonds and the Wrong Side of History,” by Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), one of the architects of the certification scheme, states, “Zimbabwean diamonds are produced from mines that benefit political and military gangsters and they are smuggled out of the country by the bucket-load.”
One Zimbabwean diamond trader in Manica, who wished to remain anonymous, told IRIN that “people are very willing to risk their lives to carry diamonds across the border. In Zimbabwe, it is necessary to bribe the soldiers guarding the mines and then you still have to make the journey across the mountains to get to the border. But this is creating a lot of wealth in Manica,” the trader added.