The World Diamond Council on Friday called for the immediate release of Zimbabwean human rights activist and research institute chief Farai Maguwu, who has been remanded to police custody pending trial on charges that he published false information injurious to state interests about the Marange diamond field.
A major player in the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, which meets next week in Israel to consider whether to approve Zimbabwe's export of diamonds from the Marange field, the World Diamond Council said the continued detention of Maguwu would cast a dark cloud over the Kimberly Process consultations.
Non-governmental organizations including Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada also called for Maguwu’s release - and the suspension of Zimbabwe’s membership in the Kimberly Process.
International and domestic critics say the rich alluvial diamond field in Marange district of Manicaland province has in effect been seized by a clique of ZANU-PF officials and military officers past and present through questionable joint venture deals with firms about which little has been disclosed, including directors and investors.
Non-governmental organizations say serious human rights violations have continued in Marange despite Kimberly intervention late last year, including the forced eviction of communities in the diamond zone.
NGOs are targeting the Kimberly Process monitor for Zimbabwe, Abbey Chikane of South Africa, saying the report he has prepared on Zimbabwe is a whitewash of continuing abuses. Such groups demand the Kimberly Process replace Chikane with an official regulator based in Zimbabwe to ensure Harare complies with KP rules.
Chikane turned over documents Maguwu had provided him to Zimbabwean authorities, leading to the arrest of the director of the Center for Research and Development in Mutare, capital of Manicaland province. Chikane said he believed the official documents had been illegally obtained and did not want to run afoul of the law.
World Diamond Council President Eli Izhakoff told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that releasing Maguwu before the Kimberly meeting would weigh favorably for Zimbabwe in the organization’s deliberations.
Authorities meanwhile moved Maguwu from the Harare remand prison to Avenues Clinic in Harare following his examination Thursday by a doctor under a judge's orders. Maguwu defender Johanne Zviuya said his client, who was reported to be experiencing chest and throat pains, will remain in the hospital until he has recovered.
His lawyers said late Friday that Maguwu underwent surgery for the removal of his tonsils.
Human Rights Watch researcher Tiseke Kasambala said she will attend the Kimberly Process meeting on Monday in Tel Aviv, Israel, and lobby for action to end continuing Marange-related abuses.
Meanwhile, members of Parliament’s committee on mines said their efforts to visit the Marange field were again frustrated on Friday when Commissioner of Police Augustine Chihuri proved unreachable for authorization, as he was on Thursday. Committee member Moses Mare said the legislators were furious.