PRESS RELEASE: ZIMBABWE’S DIRTY DIAMONDS: TIME FOR RECLAMATION TO COME CLEAN

Salc : Staff Writer

Johannesburg – With Zimbabwe’s diamond industry still shrouded in secrecy, the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) and three Zimbabweans have petitioned South Africa’s New Reclamation Group for access to information that will shed some much-needed light on its controversial mining operations – and prove whether any of its promises to local communities have been fulfilled.

In particular, the petitioners are asking for information relating to whether communities that were forced to relocate were consulted and have been given compensation, whether the requisite schools and hospitals have been provided and whether environmental and safety standards are being complied with.

“Diamond mining in Marange remains very murky but New Reclamation Group can clarify many of the key issues and improve transparency in the industry by providing this information,” said Claude Kabemba, Executive Director of SARW. “Zimbabweans, and particularly those most directly affected, are entitled to know who is benefitting from their mineral wealth – all Zimbabweans or just the military and political elite and some unscrupulous South African corporates.”

New Reclamation Group, through its subsidiary Grandwell Holdings, entered into a joint venture with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation to form Mdaba Diamonds, which conducts diamond mining operations in the Chiadzwa diamond fields.

The petition was made by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), in partnership with Open Society Justice Initiative, on behalf of SARW and three affected community members in terms of South Africa’s Promotion of Access to Information Act. The Act allows for information to be requested from private bodies, where the information is required for the enforcement or protection of a right. SARW and the three petitioners are seeking the information based on the right of freedom of expression and the right to sustainable development and a healthy environment.

The petition seeks a raft of critical information, including documents relating to the:

  • Assurances given to Old Mutual, an investor in the New Reclamation Group, by New Reclamation to support its claim that its activities in Zimbabwe are to the benefit of all Zimbabweans and part of a ‘clean-up’ operation of the Marange diamond fields;
  • Compensation paid to communities relocated from the Marange concession area;
  • Consultations that allegedly transpired with leaders of affected communities ahead of the commencement of mining operations;
  • Environmental and safety checks and assessments that were carried out; and,
  • Construction of social projects such as schools and hospitals in the area.

Chiadzwa’s diamond fields have attracted international controversy and the attention of the Kimberley Process verification scheme – intended to ensure that diamonds dirtied by conflict and human rights abuses do not enter the international market. Zimbabwe’s military has been accused of killings, disappearances and assaults on communities in Chiadzwa. The diamond fields are also the subject of contested legal title with African Consolidated Resources maintaining that its claims, a portion of which is now mined by Mdaba, were unlawfully expropriated. Groups like Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada have also alleged direct links between Mdaba and Zimbabwe’s military chiefs.

“There is a widespread belief that the Marange diamonds are funding a ZANU-PF election war chest – as well as providing Zimbabwe’s old elite with a new source of illicit wealth,” said Nicole Fritz, Director of SALC. “New Reclamation Group can help end the speculation by providing us with this information – and by agreeing to be more transparent and accountable in future.”

For further information, contact:

Nicole Fritz, Director, Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) +27 11 5875000; +27 82 6001028

Richard Lee, Communications Manager, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa +27 11 5875000; +27 82 820 7637; Richardl@osisa.org

Background:

Southern African Resource Watch (SARW) is the leading organisation monitoring and advocating around natural resource extraction in the region. SARW works in 10 southern African countries monitoring corporate and state conduct to ensure that natural resource extraction contributes to sustainable development – a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. www.sarwatch.org

Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC)

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) promotes and advances human rights and the rule of law in southern Africa, primarily through strategic litigation support and capacity building.

SALC provides technical and monetary support to local and regional lawyers and organizations in litigating human rights and rule of law cases in the region.  SALC also provides training in human rights and rule of law issues and facilitates networks of human rights lawyers and organizations throughout southern Africa.

SALC works in the following countries: Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In addition, SALC supports litigation in South African courts that advances human rights in the southern African region.

SALC also supports other general human rights cases outside these areas of focus.