A Zimbabwean government minister has confirmed that an army firm has a 40% stake in one of the most lucrative concessions in Chiadzwa, in a clear admittance of the military's direct involvement in the Zim diamond mining industry.
The country's Deputy Mines Minister told parliament last week that the Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) owns 40% of the Anjin mining firm, which is a joint venture with the Chinese. Although the ZDI is, on paper, a private company, all the shares in the company are held by the ZANU PF controlled Ministry of Defence.
The state owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) owns a further ten percent of Anjin, with the remaining half of the shareholding being held by the Chinese Defence Industries.
Minister Gift Chimanikire told parliament that there was nothing sinister about the ZDI's involvement in diamond mining, and that "Anjin itself is a defence industry company that is owned by the Chinese."
But Chimanikire's admittances come amid fresh reports that the army, along with police and private security, is still leading a violent campaign against diamond panners at the Chiadzwa alluvial fields. According to a report in the UK's Sunday Times newspaper, witness have described continued shootings, beatings and the use of dogs by soldiers, police and private guards against illegal miners at the controversial fields.
One victim described being shot in the face by soldiers while four friends were murdered and others beaten after digging for diamonds near a concession. The man claimed he had been recruited to dig for stones by the soldiers who had later killed his colleagues and disfigured him for life, apparently in an attempt to eradicate witnesses to their brutality.
"We agreed to share the proceeds," the victim was quoted as saying. "They said for every five diamonds that we get, we give them one or give them two."
"But when we were digging there was a change of officers, soldiers that were not used to seeing us. They came to surround us and started firing on us, using live bullets, and as we were running away they then fired on us using big guns. There was no warning given."
Human rights groups and campaigners have for years warned about the involvement of the military in diamond mining operations, after the army led the 'clean up' campaign in Chiadzwa in 2008. That 'Operation Hakudzokwi' saw soldiers on the ground and in helicopter gunships opening fire on defenceless diamond panners, leaving at least 200 dead and many more injured.
This violence saw Zimbabwe being barred from international diamond trading by the industry watchdog, the Kimberley Process (KP). The group ordered Zimbabwe to reform and meet the minimum standards of international trade, including demilitarising the diamond fields.
But this never happened, as Chimanikire's admittance in Parliament last week has shown. And yet Zimbabwe was still cleared for sales by the KP last year.
Alan Martin from the human rights group Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) told SW Radio Africa on Monday that the reports of violence are a serious concern, but not surprising, explaining that "we have warned repeatedly that the Anjin firm is a military to military arrangement."
"We have been hearing the reports of violence for a long time and it really highlights the deficiencies of the KP's 'conflict diamond' mandate. The majority of abuses in diamond mining, not just in Zimbabwe, are no longer committed by rebel groups, but by state security," Martin said.
The KP has been urged to make key reforms and expand its human rights mandate, but so far there is little sign that Zimbabwe will be brought to task over the ongoing violence.
"The KP has lost the political appetite to deal with Zimbabwe head on. Now they just want to try prevent future incidents like Zimbabwe from happening," Martin said.