Local authorities in Mutare, capital of Zimbabwe's Manicaland province, on Wednesday barred members of parliament from proceeding into the diamond-rich Chiadzwa area of Marange district for a fact-finding mission, lawmakers told VOA.
The committee was also prevented Tuesday from entering the premises of Mbada Holdings and Canadile Mining, which are partners in a diamond-mining joint venture with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation. Police said the committee members should have brought a letter from Mines Minister Obert Mpofu and Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri, but members on the team say they have been allowed into Marange before armed with only a letter from the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.
Sources said the parliamentarians suspected Minister Mpofu instructed police and employees of the firms not to admit Mines Committee members to their premises or into the Marange diamond field for a first-hand look at mining operations in the controversial zone.
Manicaland Governor Chris Mushowe sent a letter to the parliamentarians saying it was not advisable to visit the controversial diamond fields at the moment due to "security concerns," among other issues. He advised the legislators to make sure they have all the necessary paperwork to be admitted to the diamond fields.
Source said Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma wrote to Mpofu informing him of the committee's intention to visit the Marange field and related operations.
The sources said police commissioner Chihuri told the committee he would give them clearance once he had been given approval by Mpofu, who Wednesday said he was locked in a meeting at ZANU-PF headquarters so he could not send a fax through to Mutare.
A meeting between committee members and residents of Chiadzwa had to be canceled as the legislators were not allowed to travel into the area, which is tightly controlled by the Zimbabwean military.
The residents on Monday told parliamentarian Shuwa Mudiwa, who was expected to attend the meeting, that they the military to be withdrawn from their area. The meeting would have given the committee an opportunity to hear the concerns of locals first hand.
Correspondent Loirdham Moyo reported from Mutare on the Marange imbroglio.
Mpofu declined to comment when reached by VOA.
Senior Researcher Dewa Mavhinga of Human Rights Watch, an expert on Marange , said the refusal to allow parliamentarians visit offices and mining works indicates something is being concealed.