With the discovery of diamonds in the Marange region, Zimbabwe became one of the world’s leading diamond producers. But instead of using diamond wealth to drive the country’s development, there is a very real risk that diamonds sourced from Marange are funding human rights violations.
Following the violent takeover by the army of the Marange diamond fields in 2008, Global Witness exposed links between some of the mining companies operating there and members of the military and secret police. The involvement in the diamond sector of security forces loyal to the ZANU-PF ruling party, particularly around the 2008 and 2013 elections, raised concerns of off-budget diamond revenues being used to finance human rights abuses and vote-rigging.
Elements of Zimbabwe’s highly politicised security forces have been repeatedly implicated in widespread violence designed to silence perceived critics of President Mugabe’s government.
Despite the risk that Marange diamonds could be funding repression, consumers are unable to determine if their diamonds have been sourced from there. The Kimberley Process, which was established to eradicate the trade in conflict diamonds, has given a green light to exports from Marange.
Global Witness is not just worried that diamond revenues might be getting to abusive actors. We are also concerned that that the people of Zimbabwe are missing out on the benefits of their country’s natural resources. Almost three quarters of Zimbabwe’s population are living below the poverty line, yet there is very little public information about where the country’s diamond money is going.
Global Witness’ investigations have bought the covert links between Zimbabwe’s diamonds and human rights abuses to the world’s attention. In 2012, Global Witness revealed that Hong Kong businessman, Sam Pa, was given diamonds and other business opportunities in Zimbabwe, in return for financing the country’s secret police, the Central intelligence Organisation (CIO).
To combat the risks associated with Marange diamonds, companies in the diamond supply chain around the world should conduct checks of their supply chains, known as due diligence. Consumers should ask to see these reports, and make sure the companies they choose are committed to sourcing responsibly.
The Zimbabwean government must comprehensively and publicly account for its diamond revenues. This should include ensuring transparent beneficial ownership of companies managing this precious natural resource.