20 June 2012

Zimbabwe: Western Diplomats Invited On 'Sanctions Removal' Chiadzwa Tour

Western diplomats in Zimbabwe are set for a tour of the controversial Chiadzwa diamond fields, in what critics have slammed as an attempt by ZANU PF to push for the removal of targeted sanctions against party linked diamond firms.

Announcing the visit last week, Zimbabwe's Minister of Mines, Obert Mpofu, said he hoped the visit by Western diplomats would put to rest claims of human-rights abuses by security forces in the diamond-mining fields.

"The EU ambassadors and Western country ambassadors are going to Marange next week. We said come. In fact, they asked for that permission a long time ago ......we are open to scrutiny," Mpofu said.

The visit comes as there are ongoing reports of abuses led by the military, police and private security guards at the diamonds fields. Most recently, an investigation by the UK's Sunday Times newspaper reported how beatings, assaults, dog attacks and other abuses were still ongoing.

The tour is now seen as an attempt by Mpofu to try and move past the violence reports, with ZANU PF still pushing for Western targeted sanctions to be removed.

These measures are still in place against key members of the Robert Mugabe regime and many companies, including the Zimbabwe Mining and Development Corporation (ZMDC) which has a large stake in Chiadzwa.

Political analyst Clifford Mashiri told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that ZANU PF is "trying to pretend that the abuses can be washed away," and that the party "wants everyone to believe that all is fine."

"I don't think this strategy will work," Mashiri said, while urging civil society "to keep an eye open and keep reporting the abuses at Chiadzwa."

Mashiri meanwhile agreed that the diplomats' visit could have a potentially brutal consequence for villagers in the Marange area, if a 'clean up' operation is put into place ahead of the tour.

The tour is expected to take place next week.

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