Zimbabwean lawmakers have finally been granted permission to visit the controversial Marange diamond fields for the first time since mining operations in the east of the country began in 2009.
Chairman Edward Chindori Chininga of the parliamentary mines committee declined to give pre-tour details, but confirmed the legislators had finally been cleared to go to Marange to familiarize themselves with the joint venture mining operations in the fields.
The committee has in the past criticized the manner in which the government has handled the mining and marketing of Marange diamonds and expressed concern over the way some foreign investors, especially those from Asia, were not respecting Zimbabwe’s labor laws.
Chininga told VOA reporter Violet Gonda the committee is going on a fact-finding mission, including conducting a follow-up investigation into diamond operations in the area.
“We are doing an oversight role that is all. We are going to Chiadzwa to see how the operations are going and figure out what is going on in terms of security; what is happening in terms of operations and how they are selling the diamonds,” said Chininga.
Director Farai Maguwu of the Center for Research and Development said the tour to Marange by the mines committee is long overdue, adding it’s a welcome development.
“In fact they should have gone even ahead of civil society. They are the legislative body of government and they represent the Zimbabwean people,”said Maguwu. “They must be answerable to the people but how can they have answers to things they do not know. It must not be a token but a routine exercise.”
Meanwhile, Maguwu said he feared that diamond mining operations in Marange may undermine the work of the inclusive government, democratic transition and sustainable economic development in the country.
He said many are concerned that an Israeli pilot was arrested recently at the Harare International Airport trying to smuggle out of Zimbabwe 1,300 pieces of diamonds worth an estimated $2,4 million.
Maguwu said it was shocking that despite committing such a serious crime the Israeli national was granted bail of only $5,000 and remanded out of custody.
He questioned how the Israel pilot was able to access such a large consignment of diamonds from an area that has a water tight security system.
Maguwu said this raises a lot of questions on the implementation of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme's minimum standards in Zimbabwe.