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Zimbabwe Government Proposes to Hand Diamond Field to Commercial Partner

Zimbabwe's Ministry of Mines said Monday that it will seek a private firm to work the Marange diamond field in order to address concerns expressed by Kimberly Process team which documented human rights abuses there and illegal mining and exports of gems.

The statement followed a declaration late last week by Zimbabwean security forces that they would continue to exercise control over the diamond-rich Chiadzwa field in Marange district of eastern Manicaland Province near the border with Mozambique.

Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, recipient of a damning report last week from a review team sent by the Kimberly Process Compliance Scheme, told state media that Zimbabwe intends to address the areas of concern stated in the Kimberly Process report.

The report cited "horrific" violence against civilians living in and around the diamond field, and reported evidence of illegal mining and exports of diamonds to the world market.

The Kimberly Process opened an investigation after Human Rights Watch published a report saying the Zimbabwean military had killed more than 200 people in the district to assert its control of the diamond field, and forced others to work open pit mines.

Mpofu said the government has already started making arrangements with a private operator who will take over mining in Chiadzwa before long.

Deputy Mines Minister Murisi Zwizwai told reporter Sandra Nyaira of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that statements from the military will not derail government efforts to normalize the situation in Marange. He said the security forces have been told soldiers will have to leave once a private mining operator has taken over in the diamond field.

Human rights lawyer Zvikomborero Chadambuka said statements that the army is in Marange to protect the mining fields should be dismissed as there is mounting evidence that soldiers have been abusing locals, mining illegally and smuggling precious stones.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...