ZIMBABWE Acting Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe on Wednesday held discussions with a team from the Kimberley Process which is in Zimbabwe on a fact-finding mission to establish the validity of allegations that the countryâ€™s security forces killed more than 150 illegal miners and dealers at Chiadzwa diamond fields in Marange.
Also in attendance at the meeting was Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.
The mission from the Kimberley Process (KP), the United Nations-founded body to monitor the trade in so-called â€œblood diamondsâ€, arrived on the fact-finding mission on Monday.
The team comprises Benhard Esau (Chair) from Namibia, Kennedy Hamutenya, Diamond Commissioner Namibia, Louis Sekelane, Chief Executive Officer of South Africaâ€™s Precious Metals Regulator, Cecillie Mbundu, KP CoordinatorNamibia, and Vicky Dan KP liaison officer Namibia. It arrived in Zimbabwe on Sunday.
According to information to hand, the team would compile a report on the investigation and information that they gather. The team visited Chiadzwa on Tuesday and it was not clear by last night if they would make another visit today.
The KP has established a system of international diamond trading which bans the sale of diamonds that have been exploited in â€œconflict areasâ€ or where diamonds are used to prop up violent regimes.
Government seized the Chiadzwa diamond claim from British-based Africa Consolidated Resources in 2007, and set off a diamond rush when it encouraged locals to help themselves to the precious stones. But since the army was deployed there, the area has been cordoned off to all but security forces.
The Chiadzwa area has been a centre of controversy since October last year when soldiers were deployed to drive off thousands of panners who invaded the area. There have been widespread reports of random killings of diggers and of mass graves.
James Maridadi, spokesman for the Acting Prime Minister, said: â€œThey had a fruitful discussion with the Acting Prime Minister and other members of the inclusive government.â€
The team toured the Chiadzwa diamond fields in Marange in the company of Minister of Mines and Mining Development Obert Mpofu and Deputy Minister of Mines Murisi Zwizwai.
Mpofu was quoted denying after the tour of the area that atrocities were committed by the armed forces against ordinary citizens.
He however admitted that the â€œhigh level of criminality among illegal diamond diggers resulted in three deaths, which led to three arrestsâ€.
Independent human rights organisations such as Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have released reports alleging gross human rights abuses in the area, alleging that about 200 people were killed.
Â The Kimberley Process, which visited Zimbabwe three years ago to investigate alleged smuggling of blood diamonds from the DRC via Zimbabwe, aims at ensuring effective accounting and regulation of all diamonds produced and traded.
In Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Mines is responsible for implementing the Kimberley Process via Zimbabwe Minerals Development Corporation (ZMDC). â€“â€“ Staff Writer.