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Zimbabwe accuses US of lying about diamond-mining forced labour

Calls allegations a ‘shameless lie’.

Zimbabwe angrily denounced a US government decision to curb imports of diamonds from its Marange field, branding the claim the country uses forced labor at the operations “a shameless lie.”

“Invoking the repulsive prospect of alleged forced labor is a new nomenclature for seeking to bar Zimbabwe’s diamonds from the international markets,” the southern African nation’s government said in a statement. “This move constitutes a grave and serious attack on Zimbabwe’s interests and is no less than a manifestation of undeclared sanctions.”

The Kimberley Process, which aims to ensure that the proceeds of diamond mining aren’t used to fund conflict, confirmed that it has no restrictions on trade in Zimbabwean diamonds. The body represents 81 countries, accounting for 99.8% of global rough diamond production.

Zimbabwe, suffering its worst economic crisis since 2008, is desperate to end sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union on politicians and state companies. The government blames the US measures, in place for almost two decades, for hindering investment in the country.

The US Customs and Border Protection agency announced the so-called withhold release order on the Marange diamonds in an October 1 statement, without giving details of the allegations against Zimbabwe.

News, allegations

“A WRO allows importers an opportunity to re-export their goods or to provide evidence that their goods are not produced with forced labor,” the agency said in a response to questions. The order can be imposed on the evidence of news reports or allegations made directly to it by non-governmental organisations, the agency said.

It also imposed the same measures on gold from artisanal mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a variety of products made by companies in China, Malaysia and Brazil.

“If they had concerns they should have contacted us, our doors are open,” Polite Kambamura, Zimbabwe’s deputy mines minister, said by phone. “If they request to go to Marange, our doors are open. It’s so disturbing that they made this announcement.”

Marange, in eastern Zimbabwe, is not without controversy. The field, by far the biggest diamond operation in the country, was seized by the government from African Consolidated Resources, a UK company, in 2006. The company fought the decision in court for several years but failed to overturn the state’s decision.

Military control

After the seizure, Marange was overrun by thousands of informal miners before being commandeered by the military. Non-governmental organisations including Human Rights Watch and the opposition movement for Democratic Change accused the government of abuses including widespread smuggling — and of using revenue to fund ruling party militia during election campaigns.

New York-based Human Rights Watch accused the military of killing as many as 200 informal miners at the site and demanded that the Kimberley Process sanction the diamonds. The army has denied the allegation.

Between 2009 and 2016, Chinese and South African companies mined the deposit in partnership with the government. In 2016, then president Robert Mugabe ordered them off the deposit, saying that the state had been illicitly deprived of $13 billion in potential revenue.

The only company now mining at Marange is the state-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond.

“We are a responsible state miner that operates within the laws of the country and we observe strict adherence to critical tenets of corporate governance,” the company said. “ZCDC employs labor in terms of the Labour Relations Act and there is no compromise on that.”

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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For change to occur I have to start by changing the way I think. One cannot bring about change by trying to change what or how someone else thinks. The apartheid government could have blamed the sanctions for worsening what was happening in SA as well, but that would not have changed what the countries imposing the sanctions thought. SA had to change its ways first. The old NP could not expect the world to have pity on it and allow SA back into the world community while it was a dysfunctional government which did not subscribe to equal rights for all citizens. The same is happening in Zimbabwe now and the same will happen in SA again when the unequal rights afforded to citizens here at the moment will boil over, all the while the ANC will be blaming external forces, immigration, WMC, apartheid, colonialism, everything under the sun except their own actions. Just like with apartheid, the tide will rise against them too. Change Zim – reject ZANU-PF. Change SA – reject ANC. Same solution for what is, essentially, the same problem.

Given that Mugabe and ZANU-PF shamelessly abused Zimbabweans for decades why shouldn’t people take these claims seriously. Ordinary Zimbabweans have been so oppressed they have lost the ability resist abuse and many don’t even feel they have the right to resist. Sad and little will change when neighbours like South Africa actively support the dictators dishing out this treatment. For a country with South Africa history the attitude of ignoring human rights abuses involving Black people is shocking to say the least.

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