Human Rights Watch has issued a report accusing Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's long-ruling ZANU-PF party of tapping proceeds from the illicit sale of diamonds from the Marange field to fund its campaign for anticipated 2011 elections.
Human Rights Watch United Kingdom Director Tom Porteous said his s investigations showed “revenue from the mines is serving to prop up Mr. Mugabe and his cronies.”
He said Human Rights Watch is concerned such funds will also be used to support political violence by ZANU-PF and intimidate Mugabe opponents.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo dismissed the charges as nonsense.
Human Rights Watch in 2009 issued a report saying serious human rights abuses, including killings by the military of freelance diamond panners, had taken place in the Marange field, while diamond smuggling through Mozambique was rampant.
Human Rights Watch Senior African Researcher Tiseke Kasambala told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the unity government should take steps to prevent further abuse by ZANU-PF of the rich diamond resource in eastern Manicaland province.
In a related development, Israeli authorities have arrested two men on charges they tried to smuggle Marange diamonds into the country. Kimberley Process Certification Scheme Acting Spokesman Stokamer Amir said law enforcement agencies arrested David Vardi and Gilad Halachmi at the Tel Aviv airport on Wednesday, December 23.
Amir said the two were accused of trying to smuggle diamonds worth more than US$200,000 into the country. Vardi, a diamond trader registered under the Israeli Diamond Exchange, has been expelled from that organization.
Amir said the Kimberley Process is monitoring the latest developments in the case and vowed that the two would face the full force of the law.
South African-based political and economic commentator Walter Nsununguli Mbongolwane told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube that the arrest of the two Israelis could lead to the discovery of other shady Marange diamond deals.