GOVERNMENT is cracking down on controversial diamond watchdog Centre for Research and Development (CRD) at a time when Marange diamonds and the role of security agents in illegal mining are expected to take centre stage at a meeting of diamond regulators in Israel.
The Tel Aviv meeting is to review the state of the diamond industry and consider other pressing issues affecting the diamond trade.
The police crackdown comes barely a week after Kimberley Process monitor Abbey Chikane completed an assessment of the country’s compliance with the international body’s regulations and announced that Zimbabwe was on track in meeting the minimum KP requirements.
Chikane said at the end of his visit last Friday that he would recommend that Zimbabwe resumes its sales and exports of Marange diamonds although the final decision rests with the Kimberley Process.
CRD director Farai Maguwu was yesterday arrested and detained at Mutare Central police station on allegations of publishing and communicating false statements to Chikane.
Maguwu handed himself over to the police in the presence of his lawyer Tinoziva Bere, fearing further victimisation of his relatives.
Farai’s brother Lisbern Maguwu had been assaulted by CID officers demanding that he reveals his brother’s whereabouts.
It is alleged that Farai on Tuesday last week had a meeting with Chikane in which he exposed human rights abuses by the military and the police.
His arrest comes at a time when Zimbabwe is set to top the agenda at a meeting of diamond trade regulators in Israel this month.
According to sources the meeting will take place in Tel Aviv with Israel hosting the talks as the new chair of the KP.
The deadline for Zimbabwe to comply with the KP process expires this month.
However, Zimbabwe’s move to ban the sale of all diamonds in the country until the country is certified will not stop the KP from passing a decision based on the report.
At this meeting Chikane is expected to present to the body a comprehensive report on operations at Chiadzwa.
Bere yesterday said they accompanied Farai to Mutare Central police station who referred them to CID’s Law and Order Section.
“He was immediately charged with contravention of Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 7:13). It is alleged that he communicated or published information on Chiadzwa diamond field activities to Abbey
Chikane, the Kimberley Process monitor which information is alleged to be false,” said Bere.
He said his client (Maguwu) denied the charge.
“The police have promised to call us in to record a statement later as they are waiting for certain information.”
Bere said Maguwu complained that some of his relatives have been arrested or harassed and that some of his personal property and documents, including his passport and vehicle, were forcibly taken from his house and office with no official seizure notice.
“He identified to us the vehicle parked at the police station today. The people alleged to have taken the items were not in uniform,” he said.
“It’s not clear when he will be brought to court. Normally it would be within 48 hours but in this country anything is possible. The police explained to us that they are unable to release him to us even though he has voluntarily presented himself. We await the formal process of recording a statement and will be insisting that he be brought to court promptly.”
Early last month, CRD claimed that security loopholes at Canadile Miners’ Operation was resulting in about 2 000 carats of diamonds being smuggled out of the country per day.
In its report, CRD said company employees had overtaken illegal panners and soldiers in supplying diamonds to local and foreign buyers, who descend on Chiadzwa daily.
The group added that on average about 60 buyers a day can be found in Chiadzwa searching for diamonds. CRD further confirmed with Rapport News that there is strong evidence that another company, the Chinese firm Anjin Investments, is working on a third concession at Marange through a joint venture with the Zimbabwe government.
Maguwu’s surrender follows alleged assault of his brother Lisbern at the hands of police.
Mutare lawyer David Tandire representing Lisbern Maguwu said: “On the 31st of May I was tasked by (Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights lawyer Blessing) Nyamaropa to represent Lisbern because Nyamaropa had been threatened with arrest (because) he knew where Maguwu was.”
“I went to the CID’s Law and Order section at Mutare central police station on the same day at nine in the morning and I was told that there was no such person at the police in the name of Lisbern. However, someone had advised me that he had appeared in court in the afternoon.”
He said the police had used Lisbern as a hostage hoping that Maguwu would surrender himself.
“We filed a complaint with the courts as we saw that our client was badly assaulted by members of the CIO and police officers. He complained of being beaten with open hands and booted feet and when we saw him he was limping and he had bruises on his head.”
The lawyer said Lisbern was accused of contravening section 18.4 (1) g of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23], alleging that he disturbed police officers during their investigations.
The state case is that on May 27 in Chikanga in Mutare, Lisbern obstructed police from arresting his “uncle” by concealing him and denying ever residing with him.
Lisbern appeared before magistrate Anne Ndirya and was remanded to June 14.