Thursday, July 15, 2010

No Blood On Zimbabwe Diamonds

No blood on these gems, Albion

By Tichaona Zindoga

ZIMBABWE, this (immeasurably) resource-rich southern African country of about 13 million, this week became the preoccupation of the whole world.

The preoccupation is more to do with the former attribute than Zimbabwe’s demography or the "power" embodied in "super powers" like the United States of America or the 27-member European Union bloc.

But buoyed by the power in its belly, Zimbabwe becomes a match for these huge but largely natural resource-famished countries.

The war concerns diamonds mined in the eastern district of Marange, which can account for a quarter of the world’s gems.

The battle is taking place in the Russian city of St Petersburg where the unholy alliance of US, Canada, Australia and the EU try to wrest Zimbabwe’s right to exploit its diamonds with the blessing of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme.

A couple of weeks ago, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Zimbabwe plus the common sense of the other members of the 75-party body prevailed over this axis of evil, necessitating the Russian meeting, which is but a face-saver for these "big boys" in the consensus-seeking body.

Against the backdrop of this unprecedented development, the battle in Russia becomes interesting, with all the subplots, the complots and the stakes which form the grander plot of Zimbabwe’s battle for sovereignty which took a decisive turn with the land reform programme in 2000.

Readers of African literature might recall the poignant lamentation of things falling apart because "the centre cannot hold", quoted from W B Yeats in Chinua Achebe’s novel Things fall Apart.

Others, privy with the tumultuous epoch of European history when there lived a certain man called Napoleon Bonaparte, might bring to mind images of the Battle of Waterloo, which heralded the fall of the great man in question.

The two situations illustrate the quandary in which the US-led axis finds itself in, as there are no reasonable grounds to deny Zimbabwe a chance to trade in its gems legitimately.

First, there is desperation to prostitute the term "blood diamonds", which term was aptly made for conflict situations, to apply to a peaceful Zimbabwe that has a legitimate, internationally recognised government.

Zimbabwe has had a functional government since Independence in 1980 when the majority black people defeated the white racist minority regime of Ian Smith, himself a product of Britain’s colonial debauchery.

The so-called "inclusive" Government of Zimbabwe, which whatever the prefix or suffix is a government all the same, was formed last year and even got the grudging recognition of US and its allies whose sensibilities were not exactly reconciled with part of the same.

On the other hand, it is a government that not only enjoys legitimacy in the eyes of its own population, but also that of regional governments whose lobbying and diplomacy made it possible.

It is this government that duly does not deserve the curse of being called a "rebel" government warranting international isolation including a ban on dealing with diamonds.

Because Zimbabwe’s detractors only know as much, they have tried to redefine "blood diamonds" to include diamonds from "areas where human rights are violated".

Critically, they also continuously try to whip on claims of a military influence on Government, to give the closest semblance of a rebel movement.

A Western-controlled "human rights" organisation Partnership Africa Canada says smuggling operations have led to numerous human rights violations in the Chiadzwa mining fields.

In addition to numerous other claims, PAC accuses President Mugabe of using the military to intimidate, manipulate and murder citizens.

PAC then argues that the current definition of blood diamonds is outdated and too narrow in scope saying the definition "erroneously assumes all governments are legitimate and does not recognise that such governments in whole or part could engage in acts of terror or criminality as egregious as any rebel movement".

Global Witness, another anti-Zimbabwe lobby took a similar stance.

"Over the past three years," says Global Witness campaigner Elly Harrowell, "the national army has visited appalling abuses on civilians in Marange’s diamond fields. Nobody has been held to account for these crimes, and now it turns out that the joint venture companies nominally brought in to improve conditions are directly linked to the Zanu-PF and military elite.

"Thanks to the impunity and violence in Zimbabwe, blood diamonds are back on the international market," Harrowell concludes.

These claims are meant to marry with those emanating from supposedly Zimbabwean organisations and individuals for the condemnation of the country.

But it will be recorded that this mischief did not hold water in Tel Aviv, and will not likely to do in St Petersburg.

However, it is the character of one Farai Maguwu whom the world has come to know as a "diamond activist" — whatever that means — that kind of salved the day for the anti-Zimbabwe lobby in Israel.

Maguwu is none other than that hitherto virtually unknown man who allegedly wanted to give prejudicial falsehoods to diamond monitor Abbey Chikane and was arrested for it.

At the time of the meeting in Israel, he was in police custody and this gave the anti-Zimbabwe lobby something to talk about.

Said Rona Peligal, acting Africa director for Human Rights Watch: "If Zimbabwe is jailing activists for writing about abuses connected to diamond mining, then it’s hardly meeting the minimum standards for KP membership."

The "watchdog" had also published a report asserting that the Zimbabwean army continues to engage in forced labour, torture, beatings and harassment in the Marange area.

Kucaca Phulu, a lawyer and chairman of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association weighed in: "It will be tragic for the diamond sale ban to be lifted now, especially if someone who wrote about human rights violations is in jail and his life is under threat."

Maguwu thus was portrayed as a martyr being persecuted by the Government leading to the jockeying for his release in the Western metropolitan.

But then just as coining new definitions to suit an evil agenda against Zimbabwe, outside of the KP plenary, has been rejected, it would seem the stuffing has been taken out of the Maguwu case and the anti-Zimbabwe lobby’s centre cannot hold.

Just as the KP meets for the Petersburg intercessionary, Maguwu is a free man.

On Monday, the High Court released Maguwu on bail.

This should make the case very interesting.

As the claims by the anti-Zimbabwe lobby are continuously exposed, the country, which is on the verge of its sanctions-busting Canaan in its diamonds waits with bated breath.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti has said Zimbabwe cannot suffer from kwashiokor when it has the resources.

Any right thinking world citizen knows there is no blood in Zimbabwe’s diamonds.

Zimbabwe is all to ready to give the evil West its Waterloo.

But the last kicks of a dying horse are to be expected.

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