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Zimbabwe Parliament Mines Committee Again Blocked in Diamond Oversight Mission

Mines Ministry Permanent Secretary Thankful Musukutwa said his ministry is not responsible for providing clearance to the Marange diamond field - but police said they could not clear the lawmakers without Mines Ministry approval

The Zimbabwean Ministry of Mines again prevented members of Parliament's committee on mines from carrying out a fact-finding mission in the Marange diamond field of eastern Zimbabwe.

Committee members gathered Tuesday in Harare expecting to travel to Manicaland, but were told the ministry had not cleared them to enter the diamond-rich district of Manicaland province, also called Chiadzwa.

Mines Ministry Permanent Secretary Thankful Musukutwa sent a letter to Parliament responding to a letter from Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma asking the ministry for clearance before the lawmakers set off for Marange. He said the ministry was not responsible for giving clearances to classified or protected areas, but the Home Affairs Ministry told Zvoma that police clearance could not be provided until the Ministry of Mines had given its assent, leaving the legislative committee in a seeming classic Catch-22 no-man's land.

The fuming lawmakers have vowed to continue to fight for access to the Marange field, complaining that with Parliament in recess, bills for committee travel and hotels are needlessly being run up.

Committee member Moses Mare told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that members of his committee are exasperated by the failure of Mines Minister Obert Mpofu to facilitate their inspection tour.

Zimbabwe Human Rights Association Director Kucaca Phulu told VOA Studio 7 reporter Brenda Moyo that the latest obstruction of the committee reflects a culture of impunity in many institutions in the country.

Farai Maguwu, director of the Center for Research and Development in Mutare, capital of Manicaland province, said continued resistance by the Mines Ministry to the committee's oversight is an indication of strong forces in government creaming off resources to their profit.