A dramatic upsurge in human rights violations by state security agents in Marange diamond fields in Manicaland, as well as plunder of precious gems by rogue syndicates with the protection of law enforcement agents has been unearthed in a new investigation.
Following a frenzied diamond rush by citizens, the government declared the Chiadzwa diamond fields in Marange a protected area under Protected Places and Areas Act (PPAA) (Chapter 11.12) in a bid to try and plug leakages of the gems.
Although PPAA has been on the country’s statutes since 1979, it was gazetted to take effect for Marange in 2007.
The PPAA law empowers the government to control the movement and conduct of people in protected areas.
An authorised officer like a soldier or police agent under section 5 (1-5) of PPAA has discretionary powers on people seeking to enter “or be in a protected area and may detain any such person for the purpose of searching them”. The section also gives power to the authorising officer to deal with any other matter in a manner that the officer considers to be necessary or desirable.
However, the Centre for Research and Development (CRD) has revealed that state security agents manning the area to enforce this law have been committing human rights violations.
The NewsHawks is in possession of photos of badly wounded citizens abused by the state security agents as well as footage of decomposing bodies suspected to be from such incidents.
A case in particular which was picked by CRD is of Maud Makowa of Muedzengwa village, who says she was assaulted by a soldier called Munashe Masvaure stationed at Airstrip base in Chirasika village for turning down his sexual advances. She was assaulted at her shop on 14 September 2022.
In another case again picked by CRD, Thomas Ziruwi says he was assaulted by three unidentified soldiers on 12 September 2022 at 7pm in Tonhorai village of Marange.
The unidentified soldiers jumped into Ziruwi’s scotch cart without his permission and severely beat him up for questioning their harassment of fellow villagers in the community.
“CRD condemns rampant and reactionary attacks on citizens by state security forces in Marange-protected diamond areas. The attacks have seen an increased number of people falling victim to sexual harassment, assault and murder at the hands of state security forces during the course of this year. CRD observed that state security agencies are manipulating state powers enshrined in the Protected Places and Areas Act (PPAA) (chapter 11.12) to commit these horrendous crimes in Marange,” reads the report.
“Findings by CRD reveal that 13 state security bases and checkpoints dotted around the protected diamond area of Marange were porous and unsustainable because state security forces responsible for manning the area are corrupt and compromised.”
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi did not pick calls when contacted for comment. He also did not respond to an email sent to him on 21 September 2022.
An officer from his office, who identified himself as Constable Brian Madora, later called and said responses were being worked on, but no responses were sent back.
The Zimbabwe National Army’s director of public relations, Colonel Aplhios Makatore, referred questions to the deputy director of army public relations, Lieutenant Colonel Alex Zuva. Zuva said the army would investigate the allegations as it does not condone human rights violations by its members.
“When the army is deployed on border control operations they will be helping the police. As the army we will just be supporting the police. So for all the things which happen during such operations, it is the police who must be answerable because they will be responsible for the operations,” he said.
“We do not condone such cases and we look into them.”
In yet another case recounted by the CRD, Justice Zimunya lost his teeth and sustained a broken leg from assault by unidentified soldiers after he had failed to surrender a seven-carat diamond piece to them.
The latest case is of Kudzanai Chiradza and Dzikamai Muzenda of Mukono village in Marange, who were attacked by state security forces when they raided Chingome Business Centre in Marange on 16 September 2022.
Other business centres in Marange like Tenda, Mashugashuga, Makotamo and Muchena also face similar raids.
In its report, the CRD stressed: “A lot of victims caught during the raids are detained in two open cages at Mbada Diamond base where they are forced to sleep for three days without blankets if they fail to pay bribes or raise a fine of US$10 equivalent of Zimbabwe dollars.”
“Victims have complained of inhuman treatment at the detention barracks. Women traders caught selling their mechandise have often complained of being molested by state security forces when climbing their big military trucks. Some break their legs whilst attempting to climb into the trucks. Locals are traumatised by state security brutality.”
The CRD also said cases of smuggling of the diamonds by illegal miners who give kick-backs to the security personnel, mostly police officers, had increased.
“The security forces are behind the influx of over 9 000 illegal diamond miners, buyers and traders operating in Marange. They collect bribes from these operators to allow them to access protected diamond fields.”
“CRD recently witnessed illegal diamond buyers driving top-of-the-range vehicles freely in and out of Marange diamond protected areas. Information gathered by CRD indicated that illegal diamond buyers have firmly established networks with state security forces and guards of mining companies to facilitate illegal diamond mining and smuggling activities,” reads part of the report.
The NewsHawks gathered that the illegal networks are more pronounced in Singwizi Valley, the green zone concession of the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Mining Company (ZCDC).
Other hotspot areas are in Makotamo, Tinoengana, Mwaora, Rambai and Kuudzewe villages of Singwizi Valley.
“CRD noticed that over 3 000 illegal miners digging for diamonds in the valley were under the watchful eyes of illegal buyers and state security forces.
“CRD is concerned that these ongoing senseless attacks on citizens are taking place in residential areas and public spaces such as business centres, marketplaces and even on roadsides,” reads part of the organisation’s report.
In 2019, government awarded 5 340 hectares of a diamond mining concession in Singwizi Valley to the Marange community. However, the condition set by the government does not allow the community to mine in the concession or form joint venture partnerships with investors of their choice.
According to the government, only the ZCDC, a government mining entity, has the mandate to mine in the concession and retain 70% shares, with the Marange community receiving 30% shares.
The CRD however said state security agents are not protecting this area but are instead letting in illegal miners who at the end of the day give them part of the diamond loot.
“CRD discovered state security forces do not carry out reactions in these areas because they are the ultimate beneficiaries of the illegal diamond trade. CRD observed that there is no legislation to operationalise this arrangement. There are no timelines set by government either for ZCDC to kickstart mining activities in the concession that will enable the community to derive revenues from their 30% shares,” said the organisation in its report, adding: “Research findings by CRD indicate that business entities are losing up to US$10 000 of revenues every month to pay bribes to various state security forces in order to continue operating. When they fail to pay them, their response is vindictive and ferocious.”
The CRD urged the authorities to demillitarise the Marange diamond fields in order to stop the current mayhem.
The fresh cases of state security breaches in Marange recorded by CRD are reminiscent of the incident which happened on 22 January 2019 around 01 00 hours when three uniformed members of the Zimbabwe National Army armed with AK47 rifles led 49 diamond panners into portal (A) of Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) and looted about 1 tonne of diamond ore.
The soldiers disarmed and assaulted three security guards, namely Moyo Mostead (aged 23), Liberty Mbundinga (34) and Sibangane Bandera (52).
The soldiers then force marched ZCDC guards away from the mine where they handed their weapons back and set them free. An alerted ZCDC reaction team tracked the armed soldiers and their band and exchanged fire with them, resulting in the death of one artisanal miner, William Mwedzi (37). Although cases of army members who are arrested and prosecuted for crimes that benefit them financially or otherwise are not many, some rogue soldiers have been punished in the past.
The Zimbabwe Defence Forces General Court Martial on 21 January this year sentenced two soldiers, Lance Corporal Dzimbanhete Tatenda and Trooper Munesi Wilfred, to 40 years imprisonment each for armed robbery. The convicted military personnel had robbed a Marondera farmer of US$16 830 and R600 last year in November.
The court martial ruled that the convicts would be demoted to the rank of private and first-year trooper, respectively, and discharged from the Zimbabwe Defence Forces with ignominy.