Wednesday, August 10, 2011
MINES Minister Obert Mpofu on Tuesday dismissed as “ridiculous” a BBC documentary that alleges civilians are forced to mine diamonds and tortured in the controversial eastern Marange fields.
Mpofu said a BBC Panorama programme that alleged Zimbabwe's security forces are running torture camps was based on false information meant to block the country from benefiting from its diamond sales. “That is a ridiculous allegation from the desperate BBC,” Mpofu told reporters.
“Why would the army do that? This is the usual BBC nonsense. These are crazy people who want to frustrate our development.”
The Marange fields have been at the centre of a years-long controversy over alleged abuses by President Robert Mugabe's army, forcing the Kimberley Process “blood diamond” watchdog in 2009 to suspend exports of gems from them.
The BBC report aired on Monday spoke to people who told of “severe beatings and sexual assault”, according to the broadcaster's website.
The main camp, known locally as Diamond Base, is a tented military-like enclosure with razor wire where workers are held, it said.
Diamonds were discovered in Marange in 2006, drawing in thousands of small-time miners hoping to get rich. The army cleared the area in late 2008, when Human Rights Watch says more than 200 people were killed.
In June the Kimberley Process (KP) approved the export of rough diamonds from Marange by two companies, a decision supported by China and India but opposed by Western nations, rights groups and the industry.
Zimbabwe conducted a KP-monitored sale last year, although the move was opposed by countries such as Canada and United States. It raised $100-million, according to government figures, after selling 400 000 carats.
Harare is said to have stockpiled gems now estimated to be worth up to $5 billion.