Diamond ventures fuel rights risks, NGO says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2012, 12:00am

A British non-governmental organisation has voiced concerns about ventures between Zimbabwean state diamond firms with a Chinese state-owned enterprise and a Hong Kong company. Global Witness says the ventures fuel risks of corruption and violence in the troubled African state.

The joint ventures, Anjin Investments and Mbada Diamonds, own concessions in Zimbabwe's Marange diamond field, the subject of widespread claims of human rights violations under military control. Since it was discovered in 2006, the 60,000 hectare site is regarded as the biggest diamond find in history, sparking a rush of diamond miners, according to media reports.

Hugo Williamson, the managing director of Risk Resolution Group, a British risk consultancy, said: 'Diamonds are a major source of revenue for the [government of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe], and given his repression of his country, this must pose major issues. Mugabe has some of his closest allies in Asia, especially China.'

The Zimbabwean military secured the field 'through violent means' in 2008, and small-scale miners were killed and wounded, Global Witness said in a report.

In December, the campaign group pulled out of the international Kimberley Process, a scheme designed to prevent 'blood diamonds' from entering the mainstream market, calling the scheme outdated and a failure, almost nine years after its launch.

'We care about the possibility of corruption and human rights abuses enabled by Zimbabwean diamond sales,' said Nick Donovan, a campaigner for Global Witness.

Anjin is a venture between a Zimbabwean firm called Matt Bronze and China's Anhui Foreign Economic Construction (AFEC), according to a Zimbabwean government document contained in the Global Witness report. Mat Bronze is linked to state-owned Zimbabwe Minerals Development (ZMD). AFEC is a state construction firm.

The venture is equally owned by the Chinese and Zimbabwean parties, Donovan said.

Mbada is 75 per cent owned by ZMD and 25 per cent by a Hong Kong firm called Transfrontier Mining, according to the report. Transfrontier gained the 25 per cent stake in Mbada over the past year, Donovan said, citing corporate documents.

Several senior Zimbabwean military and police officials sit on Anjin's board, including permanent secretary of defence Martin Rushwaya and police commissioner Oliver Chibage, according to Global Witness.

The 2008 Zimbabwean elections saw large-scale violence in which 200 people were killed and 36,000 people displaced from their homes, largely instigated by the military, police and forces linked to Mugabe, said Donovan. 'The main concern is that the diamond trade may fuel violence in Zimbabwe in future. There are worries there will be violence in the next election, probably next year.'

The Global Witness report expresses concerns that Anjin's diamond revenues are non-transparent and raises questions on who the beneficiaries of the diamond sales are.

An employee of AFEC, who refused to be identified, dismissed Global Witness' allegations as 'false foreign reports'.


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