Zimbabwean non-governmental organizations have been granted permission to tour the controversial Marange diamond fields for the first time since operations there began.
The diamond fields, heavily guarded and controlled by state security personnel, have been a no-go area for members of the civil society.
The parliamentary portfolio committee on mines has repeatedly failed to gain access to the rich alluvial diamond fields. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai only managed to visit the fields for the first time last month.
The organizations going on the state-assisted tour Wednesday include the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Centre for Research and Development, Counseling Services Unit and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Kimberley Process Certification Scheme local pointman Shamiso Mtisi, a member of the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, told the VOA's Violet Gonda that the groups will examine if Zimbabwe is complying with the requirements of the Kimberley Process in mining, as well as familiarize themselves with mining operations in Marange.
“We look at many issues including how many companies are there, how they are operating, issues to do with the security infrastructure to make sure there is no smuggling or anything like that,” Mtisi said.
Malvern Mudiwa is one of the many affected people who have lost their homes after being displaced by the diamond mining operations where government has gone into joint ventures with investors from China, South Africa and other countries.
Mudiwa, who is awaiting word on relocation, said his organization, the Chiadzwa Community Development Trust, is one of the groups on Wednesday's fact finding mission.
“We have been looking forward to it for a very long time," he said. "We want to know exactly what is happening in the area, how diamonds are being extracted, how they are being sold and also to get an update on the human rights abuses, which are still taking place in those areas.”
The alleged human rights violations in Marange sparked international outrage as Western countries, including the U.S. and Canada urged other countries to boycott the gems, dubbing them blood diamonds.
Mudiwa added: “We also want to bring it to them that the community itself is not benefiting in terms of employment and corporate social responsibility. There are only promises; nothing is on the ground.”