Fact: The diamond rush in Marange officially began in September 2006. This led to unprecedented amounts of illegal miners descending on Marange.
Last History Monday we began by discussing the estimated value of the fields and the approximate figures of carats produced in the area over a span of years as well as the history of the ownership of the fields. This History Monday we shall look at the diamond rush in the area.
The mineral rush began in September 2006.It is reported that Mugabe was facing a revolt from the military and slowly losing power within the government. As noted last History Monday, Mugabe ignored/renegaded from the court rulings to let African Consolidated Rights to mine; and ceded mining rights to the police and the army. Obviously, our president couldn’t let the nation know that the army and police were in charge; the military shared the mining rights amongst 7 military and government backed entities. There was public confusion over who exactly owned the rights and a diamond rush began.
There was an unprecedented amounts of illegal miners that descended on the area. By December, these figures were close to the ten thousands. Each of the miners were working on small, manageable plots. With the unexpected miners descending in large numbers, a housing, water and sanitation crisis was likely. It was to no surprise that soon there was an outbreak of sanitary-connected disease.
In the beginning the illegal miners would sell diamonds to the government. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), the black market soon overtook the government as a viable buyer. Their prices were better and supposedly more beneficial to the illegal miners. At the same time, out of Harare, there were claims that many of these ‘illegal miners’ were under the employ of top government officials. In January 2007, the then Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Dr Gideon Gono warned that the country was losing $50 million a week through diamond smuggling.
With his comments, the military and police began Operation No Return in October 2008. This policy was a shoot on sight policy. This policy was a death sentence of hundreds and maybe thousands of illegal miners. A no man’s zone was established and almost 10,000 villagers were relocated close to 20-25km away. It is reported that having killed illegal miners, the military then turned around and started recruiting villagers at gun point to dig for diamonds. Were they being paid? Highly unlikely. To be fair, there are some unconfirmed reports that the military ‘occasionally’ paid the villagers in diamonds.
In November 2008, the Air Force of Zimbabwe was sent to Marange after soldiers began refusing orders to shoot illegal miners. Approximately 150 illegal miners were shot by helicopter gunships. Many opposition politicians and human rights personnel claimed that Air Marshal Perence Shiri was the prime instigator in the military assaults on illegal miners.
The military crackdown even involved search and seizures in the Mutare area. Any persons found with foreign currency or diamonds being detained or made to mine the fields under the watchful of a gun.
Several international bodies have called for the United Nations to crack done on reports of torture camps, sever beatings, sexual assault and dog mauling in the area. These reports were made by the alleged victims. These have not been substantiated by any official channels.
I’ll leave you on a cliffhanger. Next time, we will be exploring the International response to ‘The Blood Diamonds of Zimbabwe’
1.The Daily Mail 19/09/2009. “The return of the blood diamonds: Miners at gunpoint in Zimbabwe”
2. Wikipedia ” Marange diamond fields”